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Zack Kassian’s suspension: What should he get for reckless slash that broke Sam Gagner’s jaw?

Greg Wyshynski
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On Sunday, Zack Kassian of the Vancouver Canucks broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with one of the most aggressively stupid plays we’ve seen in the NHL in quite some time, which is saying something considering how many aggressively stupid plays we witness on a nightly basis.

In case you missed it: Gagner controlled the puck in the Edmonton Oilers’ defensive zone, sending a short pass to Jordan Eberle to transition into the neutral zone. Kassian was rushing in to hit Gagner along the near boards when the Oilers center stopped his momentum, avoiding the hit.

Since Kassian apparently adapts to new input like an Atari 2600 trying to process ‘GTA V’ graphics, he reacted to Gagner’s stopping by slamming into the wall with his back and whipping his stick with his left hand against the boards and Gagner, to ensure he did some semblance of damage to his opponent.

Desperation breeds stupidity on the ice. A guy blows by his defender, and the defender sticks his knee out in a last-ditch effort. A guy puts in the brakes and Kassian reacts by breaking his jaw.

Unless of course Kassian was just posing for a Christian rock album cover or something. Scott Stapp envies that pose ...

The Canucks forward was given a double-minor for high-sticking and an in-person hearing with the NHL, meaning a suspension north a five games is possible.

How much north?

From what we’ve learned about the Department of Player Safety, we know that they rule based on:

A. The offending player’s suspension history.

B. Whether there was an injury on the play.

C. If this can be a “teachable moment” for the rest of the NHL, insofar as what not to do.

Kassian’s stick-swing hits on the latter two points, if not the former, as he’s never been fined nor suspended by the NHL. But Gagner’s injury is significant, and potentially a significant blow to the Oilers to start the season; and lord knows “don’t swing your wood like a kendo stick when you miss a check” is a lesson learned.

I’m guessing eight games total for Kassian: The remainder of the preseason (three games) plus five regular season games.

Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow guesses two games but wants much more, evoking McSorley/Brashear in his coverage of Kassian:

This was a stick swinging incident. That’s an important distinction. Kassian committed an illegal play in a reckless fashion and broke Gagner’s jaw. The NHL should have absolutely zero tolerance for that. If I ran the league, that’s the sort of stuff that would draw the huge suspensions. This is the sort of stuff that you can get out of the game by absolutely crucifying people who transgress, unlike with legal plays gone wrong.

This all tracks back to the gray area of intent.

Chris Simon intended to use Ryan Hollweg’s head as a piñata when he swung his stick at him. Does Kassian have a similar intent? Does the fact it was a follow-through on a check somehow lessen that intent? If he could claim he aimed for chest but got jaw, does that affect the ruling? Because it didn’t when Pierre-Marc Bouchard was dinged for two games back in 2011.

It’s reckless, stupid, sickening play. How many games does that get you in 2013-14?

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