If Duncan Keith is trying to get inside Daniel Sedin’s head, he’s doing it all wrong. And the NHL told him so with a 5-game suspension and the forfeiture of nearly $150,000 in salary for slamming his elbow into Sedin’s face during the Blackhawks/Canucks game on Wednesday night in Chicago.
That announcement by NHL head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan set off a firestorm of angry commentary from Canucks and Blackhawks fans criticizing the length of the suspension, whether Keith’s hit was premeditated, and whether a hit by Daniel that targeted Keith’s head earlier in the game also warrants suspension.
In the NHL video explaining the decision, Shanahan concludes:
“Regardless of Keith’s assertion that the intent on this play was to impede Sedin’s progress as opposed to a retaliation for an earlier hit, Keith’s hit was still dangerous, reckless, and caused injury.”
The day after the Blackhawks game, Daniel was flown back to Vancouver for medical evaluation and missed the game that night with the Dallas Stars which fueled speculation that the injury was a concussion. TSN is now reporting that the Canucks have confirmed that Daniel’s injury is, in fact, a concussion. No word yet on the severity of his injury or potential recovery time.
Losing an elite player for an indeterminate amount of time is quite a blow for a team that has been struggling for the past month to earn the last few points needed to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But it’s possible that this setback could motivate the Canucks to play smarter and with more passion, as they demonstrated in Dallas the day after Daniel’s injury.
Was the suspension fair? Keith has no prior disciplinary action against him, and while I don’t believe his assertion that it wasn’t retaliation — especially after you see the hit he got from Sedin earlier — I think the 5-game suspension is what most reasonable fans on both sides of the debate have begrudgingly agreed is fair. Some Canucks fans, of course, feel it should have been a little longer, while some Blackhawks fans feel it should have been shorter and included a suspension for Sedin.
And what about the hit Sedin gave to Keith? When you watch the video slow-motion replay, it does appear that Sedin’s shoulder comes into contact with Keith’s head.
It’s clearly a hit targeting a player’s head which was dangerous and reckless, but didn’t cause injury. For that reason, I think Sedin should have also been given some form of punishment, perhaps in the form of a $25,000 fine. I don’t see the point of suspending a player that is already out due to an injury.
Whenever there’s a suspension, fans start comparing it with the length of past suspensions for similar infractions, and the pattern that starts to emerge is that there is no pattern. The NHL’s crackdown on hits to the head has become lax since the early pre-season days when Brendan Shanahan stunned everyone with stiff, 10-game suspensions for anything that came near a player’s head.
While I cheered him on, others jeered at what they felt was overzealous officiating by eager-beaver Shanahan, who was scaring those poor, easily-frightened hockey players into not hitting at all which was also killing the game of hockey. Dramatic much, hockey fans? One of the more outspoken critics of Shanahan’s “overreach” was Don Cherry who, in a segment on CBC Coach’s Corner last year, waxed rhapsodic about hard hits over a video montage of player after player being concussed, exclaiming, “ENJOY THIS FOLKS, CAUSE YOU’RE NEVER EVER GOIN’ TO SEE IT AGAIN!”
But unfortunately, we are seeing it again. And ever since, the suspensions have become shorter and more scarce while hits that intentionally target a player’s head seem to be on the rise. So, you won, Don Cherry! But the fans have lost because now there is no clear standard or consistency to the penalties being handed down by Shanahan and the NHL. Some hits to a player’s head are ignored, while others lead to multi-game suspensions. But never 10 games. Not anymore.
I don’t know about you, but, I’d prefer to see elite hockey players like Sid Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Daniel Sedin playing hockey, not out nursing head injuries that make them miss half the season. The NHL needs to go back to handing out longer suspensions and increased fines to players who intentionally target another player’s head. It’s the only way to discourage dirty hits that have the potential to cause lasting damage and end a dazzling hockey career.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.