The Department of Player Safety has completed deliberation on Cody McLeod for the nasty hit that sent Niklas Kronwall off the ice on a stretcher Thursday night, and the verdict is in: Like Max Lapierre, who put Dan Boyle on a stretcher earlier in the week, McLeod has earned a five-game ban for the check from behind. I think we can safely consider that the new stretcher standard.
Here's the voice of Brendan Shanahan to explain how the DOPS Cops saw it:
This was a tricky one. McLeod hit Kronwall from behind, undoubtedly, but the argument from many was that Kronwall put himself in a prone position when he tried to make a sudden turn up the wall with a man bearing down on him. Shanahan addresses that.
"With the speed of today's game, there often are occaisons where a player changing direction or turning his back just prior to or simultaneous with an oncoming check may absolve a checker from responsibility. The boarding rule states that we are to consider it. It certainly is a notable aspect of the play, and we have considered it."
Unfortunately, the absolution does not follow for McLeod, nor should it.
"The key to this play, however," Shanahan says, "is that we are convinced McLeod has time to avoid or minimize checking Kronwall from behind. This is because, although Kronwall cuts back, McLeod actually makes an adjustment to his own path, and is responsible for the violent collision that results."
The reverse angle on the hit does show McLeod altering his angle to make sure he gets the most of Kronwall, and that appears to be the moment at which he earns his five-game suspension. The Department is watching his skates, and rather than seeing an adjustment that could lead to a safe play, they spot an adjustment to make the dirty one. That's never a good sign.
"At no point do we see any action by his skates indicating that he is attempting to stop or at the very least slow down prior to this forceful check," Shanahan says.
I'm pretty comfortable with this reading of the play. Not unlike the Boyle collision, the hittee plays a role, for sure, putting himself in a poor position prior to contact. But that doesn't absolve the dirty hitter from the dirty hit, especially if there was time to do something else.
Speaking of the Lapierre suspension, I suspected that McLeod would see a stiffer ban for his hit, and I appear to have been wrong there. That said, Lapierre's history was considered when his suspension was handed out. In the case of McLeod, the Department takes time to point out he has no history. That sort of thing can swing a game in one direction or the other, and I'd argue that it did here. For McLeod, it may have earned him one fewer game, and it may have earned Lapierre one more.
Either that, or once again the Department is settling at five because one more game means the player can appeal. Yeah, probably that.
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