When Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton was suspended five games for a hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog, he released a statement defending his actions: "For 14 years, I've always played the game with respect and integrity and I will continue to do so when I return."
Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky might have an opinion on the accuracy of that statement, after this hit on Wednesday night; ditto NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan:
To put it mildly, Sutton was a physical force against the Hurricanes, who won the game, 5-3. He had a knee-on-knee incident with Eric Staal. He had a boarding penalty against Tuomo Ruutu. He freight-trained Jeff Skinner with a clean hit (and he fought Tim Gleason after it).
As you can see above, he also had a leaping hit that connected with Ponikarovsky's noggin in the third period, earning a boarding minor. Ponikarovsky finished the game, so there was no immediate injury.
Should it earn more from the NHL's Department of Player Safety?
Yes. If Mark Fistric is going to get three games for leaving his feet on a "charge," then Sutton leaving his skates on a hit against the boards deserves at least as much. Argue it's part of the follow-through if you'd like. But the NHL just suspended a guy for leaving his skates as Sutton did -- although Sutton's hit didn't result in an injury (at least at first glance) like Fistric's did.
But Fistric wasn't a month removed from a 5-game suspension, like Sutton.
EJ Hradek of NHL.com wondered if this hit would warrant "double digits" in a suspension for Sutton. It's hard to imagine something that didn't result in a player being helped off the ice resulting in 10 games or more, even for a repeat offender with the frequency of Sutton.
But we'll leave that to Shanahan. He's an expert. He's seen the replays.