April 02, 2010
(UPDATE: Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Armstrong's getting a 2-game suspension for this. NHL Wheel of Justice farce spins on.)
This hit by Colby Armstrong(notes) of the Atlanta Thrashers on Mathieu Perreault(notes) of the Washington Capitals Thursday night is a perfect example of the ball of confusion that is illegal physical contact in the NHL. You may have caught it in Leahy's Three Stars last night, but here's the clip again:
Some believed that this was a leaping blindside hit by Armstrong. Others saw it and declared that Armstrong should be suspended because Capitals have been suspended for less. The referees probably didn't see it, so they gave Armstrong 2 minutes for "holding" along with Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn(notes) after their vengeful scrum following the hit.
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau saw the hit his way:
"It was a pretty solid, clear elbow to the face," he said. "I don't even think they were calling a penalty on it until [Shaonne Morrison] got in. It was not ‘unsuspecting' but it was an elbow. And an elbow to the head is an elbow to the head."
And Armstrong saw the hit his way:
"I just came in on the forecheck and thought I had a pretty good angle on him. I haven't seen him play before but he's a pretty skilled little [player], good lateral movement. If anything, I tried to reach out and just get a piece of him. I thought I was going to go right through him, but he kind of bailed on the hit a little bit. I didn't mean to get my arms up into his neck or anything like that. But I saw the replay ... if anything, I was just trying to get a piece of him as he was trying to come by me. It's just one of those plays."
The point isn't to pile on this glove/forearm/elbow to Perreault's mug, which should have earned a double-minor for roughing at a maximum. (If you believe he deserves supplemental discipline for this, in a League without an official "head shot ban" on the books, then the suspension culture has reached its saturation point.)
The point is that blogs, fans, coaches, players involved and referees all viewed the play in different ways; which is a reminder the entire Wheel of Justice concept in the NHL is as much due to the bewildering nature of hockey plays as it is Colin Campbell's inconsistency and the NHL's ineptitude. OK, maybe it's like 30 percent bewildering nature of hockey plays and 70 percent NHL ineptitude, on second thought.