October 03, 2011
After a series of concise, enlightening video explanations for his eight preseason suspensions, NHL VP of Player Safety (and infomercials) Brendan Shanahan(notes) had yet to host a clip detailing why a player wasn't suspended after a match penalty.
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone's(notes) hit to the head of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Campoli(notes) on Saturday night didn't warrant a suspension, according to the NHL. Shanahan explained why in a clip released late Monday:
Earlier in the day, Shanahan released a text statement on the decision not to suspend Malone that served as a basis for this video:
"We felt that this hit was the most challenging one so far in this preseason for the Department of Player Safety to evaluate," said Shanahan. "In the end, we felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright. However, when the contact was made, Campoli's head position significantly changed just prior to the hit.
"There are elements about the hit that we don't like — specifically, the principal point of contact being the head and that it was not a full-body check. But the overriding factor in our judgment was that Campoli's loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it just prior contributed significantly, if not entirely, to those elements."
A couple of thoughts about this clip:
• No mention of Teddy Purcell's(notes) role in the play, stick-checking Campoli as he skates out and knocking the puck loose. Ultimately, the decision was that Campoli was the one who lunged for the puck, but odd that a third player in the incident wasn't acknowledged.
• The "elements about the hit that we don't like" and that Campoli "contributed significantly, if not entirely" to Malone's head-shot are appeasement to offended parties. It's like saying Malone is guilty of a dirty hit but only because Campoli opened himself up to a dirty hit … mostly. While this ultimately reinforces the message to players that principal contact with the head is off-limits, it feels like a judge holding his nose while banging the gavel on a not-guilty verdict. Which shouldn't be the case because, As The Video Shows, Malone's hit was within the rules.
• Finally, this ruling, and the fact that Rule 48 no longer specifically outlaws blindside hits, makes us wonder: Would this brutal, controversial hit by Doug Weight on Brandon Sutter from 2009 still be legal under the NHL's current rules? Seems like it, which is pretty incredible when you think about how far we've swung to the conservative side for player safety.