NHL: Why Suspension of Bruins' Brad Marchand Is Inconsistent, Unwarranted
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Vice President of Hockey and head disciplinarian, announced on Monday evening that Boston Bruins' forward Brad Marchand has been suspended for five games as punishment for his hit on Sami Salo in Saturday's matchup against the Vancouver Canucks.
The video of Marchand's hit can be seen on the next slide. Marchand was given a five-minute major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct. The Bruins gave up two goals on the major power play en route to a 4-3 loss to the Canucks.
A comparison between Marchand's hit and four other hits—by Canucks players alone—shows that the Bruins' young forward was unjustly suspended for such a long period of time.
Perhaps the NHL has finally caved to those fans who have cried out against Boston's borderline style of play.
Brad Marchand's Hit on Sami Salo
This video shows the hit that resulted in Brad Marchand's five-game suspension. The NHL has deemed that this hit was indeed a clipping infraction, which is defined as a hit across or below the knees to up-end an opposing player.
The ice-level camera shows that this play was extremely close in regards to the point of contact. Viewers can easily side with the argument that Marchand connected just above the knee of Salo, closer to the back of his thigh.
Another issue to consider is the question of why Salo ultimately has his back to Marchand at the point of contact. Without making any accusations, several fans and spectators have raised the point that Salo may have exemplified the result of this collision by turning and flipping himself over Marchand.
Additionally, for those who have watched Marchand play, ducking past oncoming defensemen along the boards is a big part of his game. He connected and flipped the man over, but his follow-through suggests that his primary motive was getting around the defenseman—not injuring him.
Nonetheless, here are four more hits by Vancouver Canucks players which are at least as bad as the hit that has sidelined Boston's second-leading scorer for five games.
From the Same Game—Ballard on Campbell
The quality of this video is not great, but the very end of the clip shows Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard planting a dangerous hit at knee level to Bruins' forward Gregory Campbell. This play was not penalized during the game.
One of the reasons that Brendan Shanahan and the NHL committee suspended Marchand for his hit was the argument that was not in self-defense or in an evasive manner. Does that look like the motive of Ballard on this play?
This hit is just as much "clipping" as the hit which flipped Salo over the back of Brad Marchand.
Cup Finals—Raymond Rocks Marchand
Let's go back to the Stanley Cup Finals last June. This was a hit delivered by Mason Raymond on Brad Marchand, flipping Marchand over in much the same way that Salo was flipped over Marchand. Obviously, Raymond was not suspended for this hit.
Is Raymond making this hit in self-defense? Very debatable. While Marchand was travelling at Raymond with speed, Raymond was not in a defenseless position and was in no danger of being hit from behind.
In Marchand's most recent case, they claim that Salo gave no indication that there was an impending dirty hit on the way. There is no indication on this play that Marchand was going to deliver any such hit on Raymond. The contact is at the knees. Raymond is making no more evasive a move than Marchand did against Salo on Saturday.
This play received nothing. Is Marchand's hit a five-minute major and six games more devastating?
Cup Finals—Hamhuis on Lucic
Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks was penalized on this play, but it was for his retaliation. The hit did not receive any suspension from the NHL.
Lucic no longer has the puck when this play happens. The puck is long gone, and Hamhuis initiates contact right around the knees on the Bruins' forward. To a much greater extent than the previous two hits, the victimized player on this collision is travelling at a significantly greater speed.
In my opinion, this hit had a much greater potential for serious injury than Marchand's hit on Salo. Lucic was not hurt on the play, but any less of a rotation and he could have serious impact to the head and the neck.
Self-protection? Evasive? Hardly. Clipping? Absolutely. The difference?
That hit was last year, and Marchand's hit was this year. The level of inconsistency has grown quite alarming.
Keith Ballard on Jamie McGinn
This hit was not a Canuck taking out a member of the Boston Bruins, but it is a hit from last season's playoffs which was taken in quite a contrasting light. This hit was praised as a great hit, and it was shown as a highlight on the NHL's website as one of the best plays in this game between the Sharks and the Canucks.
More clearly than any of the other hits shown here, it is absolutely evident that the point of contact on this hit is the player's knee. You can see McGinn's knee cave when Ballard makes contact on the hit. The player is moving at an extremely high speed, and neither player had a regard for the puck.
Was Marchand's hit dirty? That is a matter of opinion. Dangerous? All of these hits are dangerous. But what is legal and illegal? Where is the line drawn? None of these hits received the harsh suspension that Marchand received on Monday evening.
Some of these are even more vicious than the hit delivered to Salo on Saturday. The suspension given to Marchand is inconsistent with the way this rule has been interpreted in the National Hockey League, and it most certainly brings attention to another issue the league may want to look at a little more closely.
Be sure to follow Derek Robinson on Twitter. @DRobMachine