photo by AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez
The suspension bug strikes the Caps again. This time, the player in trouble is Mike Green for his elbow on Michael Frolik in the 2nd period of last night's game. Green, who has never been suspended previously, had a hearing this morning and received a three game suspension for the hit. Many Caps fans are up in arms about the decision; my Twitter feed alone has told me that much. Here's a video of the hit:
Was it a nasty hit? Of course.
Was it suspendable? Absolutely.
Especially after the elbow Patrice Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies delivered to the head Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts, it's absolutely appropriate that the NHL should be taking a hard line on elbows to the heads of players. Sure Frolik was not seriously injured and was able to return to the game, but he was one of the lucky ones. These sorts of hits are extremely dangerous, as we've seen, and there's no room for that kind of play on a professional stage.
"...At some point you have to take control of the game and protect the players. You see what happened in junior hockey. At some point you have to make a statement where there's not a gray area. You can't hit to the head. It's black or white. You hit to the head you're going to get suspended. We don't want to lose Greenie, but at the same time I think it's important that our league enforces punishment for hits to the head."
However, the NHL has been incredibly inconsistent with their discipline, and that is the issue with this particular incident.
On October 24, David Booth was seriously injured from a head shot courtesy of Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards. Booth was unconscious on the ice for several minutes and had to leave the ice via stretcher. Mike Richards received a penalty, game misconduct and had a disciplinary hearing, but no disciplinary action was taken. It's been reported that David Booth will finally return to the ice this Sunday, three full months after the hit.
The fact that Mike Green has been suspended while Mike Richards and countless players like him have remained on the ice is more than slightly maddening. We of course argue that it's clear that Colin Campbell is not a big fan of the Capitals, but in reality, the issue is that the NHL needs to establish a standard for hits like this. It doesn't seem right that the disciplinary process is still so reliant on subjectivity. Every hit is different, but a line must be drawn between what is suspendable and what is not. With such a blurry line as there is right now, the NHL has to make it crystal clear what a dirty hit looks like.
Maybe it'll mean one less player leaving the ice on a stretcher.