Sometimes we need a diagram with arrows, bubbles, and squiggly lines to determine the answer to two almost nightly questions: will a player be suspended for a hit? And how long will the suspension be?
Colin Campbell and his posse have been unreliable, inconsistent, and downright whimsical in their rulings. But I don’t think even Campbell’s dart throwing and donkey tail-pinning strategies could have screwed this one up.
Last night, Boston Bruins winger Daniel Paille was looking to punish Lightning forward Raymond Sawada for entering the Trolley Tracks, that sacred Don Cherry space where only the real men play. The problem is that he did it with a pretty blatant elbow.
Watching the hit in real-time and seeing Sawada’s neck snap back upon impact raised the wince-factor of this hit significantly. The third angle near the end of the video is especially jarring, and I agree with Stars colour commentator Daryl Reaugh and his assessment that “there’s a difference between finishing your check, and trying to maim someone.” One day, NHL players will discover that distinction, and when that day comes we’ll stop wincing.
Cited for a violation of the infamous headshot rule (Rule 48), Paille was assessed a match penalty and given a game misconduct. The punishment continued earlier this afternoon when the NHL handed down a four-game suspension, a penalty determined by Mike Murphy because Campbell’s son Gregory plays for the Bruins.
Those precautionary measures are nice, but I don’t think we have anything to worry about as far as Campbell pursuing a conflict of interest is concerned. Marc Savard wasn’t involved.
Sawada sustained a broken nose and a sprained shoulder, injuries that were factored into Paille’s suspension, the first of his six-year NHL career.
In his explanation, Murphy rhymed off nearly the exact language of Rule 48.
“Paille delivered a lateral hit where the principal point of contact was his opponent’s head.”
Paille becomes the fifth player this season to feel the wrath of the new headshot legislation. Once his suspension runs its course, a total of 14 man games will have been lost due to headshot suspensions.
Those who champion the argument of the NHL only punishing scrubs and goons heavily have some ammunition, but not much. Of the five players who have now seen consequences because of their flying elbows or ill-times shoulders, three of them fit the scrub or goon job description (Paille, Mike Brown, and Matt Martin).
The most notable name suspended so far has been Joe Thornton, who sat out two games following a hit on David Perron of the St. Louis Blues.
What at looked like a violent check that lacked malicious intent resulted in a short time in the press box for Thornton, while Perron is still struggling with a concussion and has missed 39 games.