The NHL Department of Player Safety is awfully busy Friday. Already requesting an in-person hearing for Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, the player safety group will also have a hearing with Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler for his hit on Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl Thursday night in Vancouver.
Edler's hit is a bit tougher to make a definitive call on, but this very well could be an interesting test for the re-worded Rule 48 and the player safety department.
It seems clear that Edler was not targeting the head, which used to be one of the criteria for Rule 48 to be enforced. Since that is no longer the case, Edler has more of a chance to be suspended than he would've last season.
Rule 48 still leaves a little wiggle room as it tries to ensure that contact to the head was avoidable. Here's where Edler has a chance.
No question, the principle point of contact was Hertl's head. However, did Hertl put himself in that position just prior to or simultaneously with contact? While Hertl's movement was not significant, he did change the position of his body in reaching for the puck slightly. So was it enough to make head contact unavoidable? That's tougher to distinguish.
Edler was committed to the hit before Hertl reached for the puck. This is going to be a tough one for Brendan Shanahan and company, but their decision on this hit, using the new wording of Rule 48 is going to be a point of reference for how the department operates on head shots.
At the very least, I could see a fine coming Edler's way, but have a much harder time believing he'll be suspended. It's the subtle movement from Hertl that may let Edler off the hook, though it is a clear head shot.
How the league rules on this one may determine how much leeway players are going to be given when it comes to contact to the head this season. This is an important decision.