Jordin Tootoo got hit with a two-game suspension today for hitting Ryan Miller, which was momentous for a number of reasons.

For one thing, it was Miller’s first game back since Milan Lucic ran him over and everyone on the Sabres threw a fit over how reprehensible it was. And to be fair, whether Tootoo meant to hit him or not — he was probably trying to avoid contact, but not too hard — he got him pretty good. It’s hard to blame Miller for what is very obviously an overreaction, nor can you blame his teammates for dog-piling the guy immediately. For Miller, he’d just gotten back from a concussion and probably didn’t much appreciate a 200-pound man jumping into his head. For his teammates, they’d just spent the last two weeks being called punks for not defending Miller, so they literally jumped on the first chance they go to do so.

But for Tootoo to get suspended? For two games? Well, that’s Colin Campbell’s NHL all over again.

I understand that Lindy Ruff wept openly to anyone who would give him the time of day that it’s now “open season” on goaltenders, implying that the league just stands around with its hands in its pockets whenever a netminder gets a bump big or small. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen a pretty decent amount of it. But the issue is this: Do we see more goaltenders getting run over because more goaltenders are getting run over, or do we see it because we’re looking for it.

Goaltenders get bumped all the time. In their crease (ask Tomas Holmstrom about that), behind the net, wherever. Certainly, not as egregiously as Miller has gotten drilled the last two times out, but enough that a debate got started.

Brendan Shanahan put an end to that with Tootoo’s two-gamer, which, by the way, the official Sabres Twitter feed called a “slap on the wrist.” Is that what it’s come down to now? Shanahan even acknowledged that an argument could be made that Tootoo tried to avoid the hit, and now we’re handing out two-game suspensions for what may or may not be accidental contact? After Lucic got nothing for what was a far more egregious and deliberate attempt to plant the guy in the cheap seats?

This is not the kind of transparency of decision-making we were promised when Shanahan took over, and it was not reasonable. If they wanted to send a message that goaltenders are not fair game, they had the perfect opportunity with Lucic. To do it now, essentially, is ringing up Tootoo for the last two weeks’ worth of goalie bumps by other players. A better example is the David Booth hit, if you want to call it that, on Miikka Kiprusoff on Sunday. Apart from the fact that it was a slower-developing play, Booth didn’t leap in the air and the play came from the right wing instead of the left, the play was remarkably similar to Tootoo’s hit on Miller.

Booth got two minutes for goaltender interference, as did Jarome Iginla for running into Roberto Luongo earlier in the game. Neither even got consideration for supplementary discipline. Nor should they have.

Tootoo got a five minute major for charging, a game misconduct and a two-game suspension, which is placating to the Sabres to a laughable extent. It’s also a sign that the frustrating inconsistency which has long plagued the NHL’s supplementary discipline system is alive and well. It’s difficult to say exactly what Tootoo did so terribly wrong that he lost two games of his season that Lucic didn’t do worse. The latter was an ugly open-ice explosion that was easily avoidable by both parties, the former the result of a player doing what they’re all taught to do (go hard to the net) and both he and the goalie getting caught with nowhere to go.

Precedent, which should count for something, you’d think, said no supplemental discipline. If the league wants to be serious about bumping goalies like it is for contact to the head, then Lucic, Iginla, Booth and more would have all gotten two games as well. If it isn’t, then what’s Tootoo getting suspended for?

It’s that kind of “Wheel of Justice” guesswork that made Colin Campbell’s reign as discipline czar so frustrating. To be fair to the league, though, it took longer to come back than most people probably though.

Comments (19)

  1. Totally agree!!!

    Nothing else to say about it.

  2. about the booth “hit”, he wasn’t being shuved by the defender the whole time like tootoo was, booth tried to cut infront and got denied last second by the defenceman, for tootoo he was being denied from the hash marks and continued to try to go to the net thinking he was casper and could go through bodies

    • Are you saying Tootoo shouldn’t try get to the net with the puck? It was a classic power move, and amove power forwards have been making their careers on for years.

  3. Booth was being rode into the net and goalie for a while. That is why there was no suspension. Tootoo was barely touched before he made contact with Miller, and made little to no effort in avoiding contact. Booth should have still gotten a penalty, but I can see why there was no suspension.

    Do you think if Lucic was suspended that would have prevented Kiprusoff, Luongo, and Miller from getting hit (again)? I would argue that it very well could have. Shanahan really dropped the ball not suspending Lucic and is now making up for it.

    And just because one person gets away with it doesn’t mean that everyone should at another time. You have to say enough is enough at some point. This happened to fall on Tootoo, even though it wasn’t as bad of a hit as before, the NHL had to do something about what is happening to goalies.

  4. The main thing I was thinking after seeing Tootoo get 2 games was that if this had been against anyone else besides Miller/Sabres, there wouldn’t have been a suspension. A penalty for sure, but I just don’t see how you hand out a two game suspension for this..

  5. we cant completely compare the lucic hit to the booth/tootoo hits because his was not in the crease. miller-lucic had both players running after the same puck and they collided. tootoo drove full speed into miller who was in his crease. although i believe the jump was to get out of the way there were other options for him. i think shannahan made the right calls with his explanations.

    • They “collided” how? That puck wasn’t a fifty-fifty chance, Miller beat Lucic cleanly. “Collided” implies that they were both trying to reach the puck at the moment of collision, in which case there should be no call. But Lucic was beaten cleanly and it is therefore on him to pursue the puck and avoid the contact – Miller has stopped skating at that point and has established his space. Lucic just said “screw it, free shot” and plowed him – and got his hands up into the bargain. The crease in that case is kind of irrelevant.

      • well it obviously wasnt a collision like it was unintended. i would say both players braced themselves. lucic clearly should have done that but its not like he threw an elbow or raised his arms to give a high hit. all body on body just as they are preaching. if it were ron hextal he ran into you can bet hextal would still be standing.

  6. I hope Lambert is ready for the Buffalo tweets he’ll receive after this! Good piece Ryan

  7. The biggest difference between the two hits, and why I thought it should have been a suspension was the contact to the head. Tootoo’s shoulder drives right into Miller’s head. Lucic hit him more shoulder to shoulder, although there was a little head contact as well, but that seemed more incidental with the flying helmet from the whiplash tricking some people into thinking it was a headshot. I think the biggest mistake Shanahan made was not emphasizing the shoulder to the head aspect of the hit as he only mentions it once, and it does not appear on his list at the end.

  8. I’m a Sabres’ fan and a former goalie, and I have no problem saying that Tootoo getting suspended is ridiculous. Miller said it himself, driving to the net is a hockey play. He knew it was coming and had time to prepare and get his hands up (and into punching position). It’s reprehensible that Lucic didn’t get suspended, but there’s no need for a makeup call. I thought Shanahan had been doing a very good job up until that point, but they call it supplemental discipline because what was given during the game wasn’t enough. Tootoo was penalized farrrrrr too much during the game, and is receiving supplemental discipline, and Lucic was penalized the same amount as someone throwing a hook in the neutral zone. I’m clearly still sour about that, but I really believe it was ridiculous that Looch didn’t face any consequences and the result is an open can of worms.

  9. Also, before some boston or nashville fan comes on here and says that Miller should have gotten suspended for swinging his stick at Lucic or fighting Tootoo, you can bend your way back to the bench and literally fuck your own face.

  10. A terrible call – hope it doesn’t set a precedent that prevents power moves to the net. My favourite play in hockey, whether the goalie gets bowled or not!!

  11. I am getting sick and tired of these pansy hockey players.In my day( i was a goalie)If the goaltender came out of his crease he was fair game.That’s what you had the enforcers for.I took my share of lumps,,,also gave my share.So come on you N.H.L. goalies suck it up and get a team mate that has some balls and quit your whining.If you don’t like it try figure skating.

  12. I agree with this article. I think shanahan dropped the ball on the Lucic play and has dug himself a pretty deep hole choosing to suspend Tootoo on this play and not Lucic for his. The penalties given during this play were more than sufficient. I think the sabres response was appropriate given this was Miller’s first game back. They would have been ridiculed for anything less. Like a comment I read somewhere else, it seems you just need to lure the goalie out of the crease if you want to hammer him. Also, I’m pretty sure every head coach would respond the same way Lindy has if his star goalie had been run over in two consecutive starts.

  13. Bruins are immune to suspensions, didn’t you guys know that?

  14. Mr. Lambert! Love reading what you have to say even though you are a hipster.

    Good post but I’m going to have to disagree with certain parts and agree with others. I’m also going to reference your colleague, Rob Pizzo, who was pontificating on this very topic during Monday’s Backhand Shelf podcast.

    By the way, all you really need to do is get Gentile and yourself on that podcast for some Glambourne fun.

    To your body of work:

    I always like to get people to step back from breaking down video frame by frame. I’m not going to argue intention because that is too subjective. What I am going to argue is the game itself: hockey (and this is just as big of a response to Pizzo believing the only places to go were into the post or the goalie). I ask this question: Let’s say Erhoff stays a foot away from Tootoo the entire time and doesn’t poke the puck away from Tootoo? Where does Tootoo go to create a scoring chance?

    If Tootoo’s only options are into the post or into Miller then neither is going to create a scoring opportunity. That means Tootoo should have been heading hard to the net with the intention of shooting from a bad angle; cutting behind the net at the last second (to either make a pass or attempt a wrap around); or to go in front of Miller and try to shoot himself or make a pass.

    The answer is: we don’t know. But Erhoff was behind Tootoo for enough time that Tootoo should have been able to do something other than run into Miller. That is the way hockey is played: to create scoring chances. In comparison, Booth is attempting to gain position on the Calgary defenceman but is being pushed to go behind the net. Booth simply doesn’t want to give up his position and runs into Kipper. Kipper was noticed smoking an entire pack of Marlboro Red’s during the play.

    Why was Tootoo suspended two games? Because he’s Tootoo, but I’m fine with that. The purpose of discipline, not just in hockey but in all walks of life, is to prevent undesireable behavior from happening again.Tootoo has a track record of being a reckless player. The Shanaban is more about correcting Tootoo’s behavior than it was about the actual hit. If that was Alex Tanguay crashing into Miller there may have been a fine but no suspension. Although, we could argue that Miller would have been suspended for charging Tanguay.

    I actually really like Tootoo and think he should be nominated for the Masterton Trophy this year (substance abuse issues plague our First Nations communities. For a player to first admit to them, seek treatment, and then return from treatment may not be special, but it is much more difficult for someone coming from a First Nations community). However, I still think a suspension is warranted. I changed the culprit to be more like a sponge player, now change it to someone similar: Does Matt Cooke get 2 games? Probably.

    What I think frustrates me most and is where I agree with you Lambert is that there was no explanation or the motives were deceiptful in dealing the suspension. That is what bothers me most about this. I’ve liked Shanabans thusfar, but this one was annoying.

    There is also the matter of the two Miller hits. This hit was made in the crease when a goaltender was trying to prevent a goal. That is where a goaltender normally plays. On the Lucic hit, Miller was not in the crease and his intentions were to play the puck, not stop the puck. The context provided has to account for something.

    So thank you Lambert for the good read and keep it up!

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