Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen deserves a suspension for his reckless elbow to the back of Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa's head (video below) during Tuesday's game at the United Center.
UPDATE: Wednesday, February 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss
TSN's Darren Dreger is reporting that Hansen has been suspended.
---End of Update---
The 34-year-old winger was able to get up and skate off the ice but he did not return to the game. There has been no official report on Wednesday from the Blackhawks on Hossa's status, but head coach Joel Quenneville did provide a brief update after the game (via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times).
If Hansen does receive a suspension, it won't be more than five games. Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada explains why:
When asked after the game about the chances of Hansen receiving supplemental discipline as a result of his elbow to Hossa (via Canucks.com), Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said "Not a chance."
"[Hansen was] trying to grab a puck in the air. It's unfortunate if a young man is hurt, it's unfortunate. Trying to jump to get the puck. Stuff happens."
Hossa suffered a concussion in last year's playoffs when Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres injured him with an illegal hit to the head, so there is plenty of concern in Chicago about when he will return to the ice.
Let's break down this play and look at why Hansen should be suspended.
Breakdown of the Play
This was a dangerous, foolish and reckless elbow from Hansen which resulted in a minor penalty for roughing.
The principal point of contract is Hossa's head, and after watching the video replay many times, it appears that the Canucks forward was not trying to play the puck. When you reach out to grab a puck, which is Hansen's only legitimate defense in this situation, your elbow usually doesn't bend like that and hit a player's head.
Intent is so hard to determine, and the only person who can answer the question with absolute certainty is Hansen.
However, even if this play wasn't intentional, it's an elbow to the back of the head that was reckless, and that is worthy of a suspension. These types of elbows to the head have no place in the game because they can cause significant injury.
Players are responsible for how they use their sticks, so they should also be held accountable for how they use their elbows and forearms when making contact with opponents.
The good news for Hansen is that he does not have any prior fines or suspensions. He also does not have a reputation as a dirty player since making his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.
Prior history is certainly a factor that the NHL weighs in its decision-making when determining the length of a suspension.
Torres' history of fines and suspensions was one reason why he was suspended a playoff-record 25 games for the illegal hit to Hossa's head during the 2012 playoffs.
Hansen isn't a dirty player, but this was a dirty play. Therefore, the Canucks forward should be suspended, but given his history of clean play, he shouldn't receive a suspension longer than three games.
With Shanahan in charge of player discipline, we have seen the NHL use injuries caused by suspendable hits as part of its decision-making process when choosing how many games a player will miss.
Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports explains the process used by the league:
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was suspended five games for elbowing Canucks star Daniel Sedin last season.
Hansen's elbow wasn't as reckless as Keith's, but it was still an irresponsible play that has no place in the sport. Since it was a dangerous play that resulted in a hit to the head which caused a player to leave the game and not return, Hansen must be suspended by the league.
How many games should Hansen be suspended for? With no prior history of discipline, Hansen deserves a two-game suspension for his elbow.
Be sure to check back to this article later on Wednesday for an update on the league's decision and the possible suspension video (if Hansen is suspended) from Shanahan.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was also a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.