Vancouver Canucks: Was NHL Justice Served with Alexander Edler's Suspension?

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Vancouver Canucks: Was NHL Justice Served with Alexander Edler's Suspension?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Alex Edler was suspended two games by Brendan Shanahan for running into goalie Mike Smith behind the net in a game between the Canucks and Coyotes on Thursday, March 21. 

It was a violation of Rule 42 of the NHL rulebook, specifically regarding charging and the protection it affords goalies from physical contact.

And so the NHL is suspending him for two games.

Edler will miss games on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 against the L.A. Kings and Colorado Avalanche, respectively. 

I’m sure there are quite a few fans that feel this is a travesty of justice. That happens in every market when one of their stars is suspended. At least in markets that actually have fans.

And there are bound to be Coyotes fans thinking Edler got off lightly.

But I’m okay with the two-game suspension.

First, it was a violation of the rules. This wasn’t a grey area or subject to interpretation.

Shanahan breaks it down quite succinctly in the suspension video, but the key points are that Edler was in violation of Rule 42, he doesn’t have a suspension history and Smith was injured. 

While I think the rule itself is stupid (in my opinion, goalies who are in the crease should be protected, goalies outside the crease playing the puck like a skater to get their team an advantage should be fair game), the rule is on the books. 

Edler nailed him. That isn’t under dispute.

Second, the suspension isn’t a huge deal for the Canucks. 

In a reversal of years past, the Canucks are hurting at forward while healthy on defence, so they can cope without Edler for a few games. Not ideal to lose an All-Star, but it is manageable.

Third, I’m okay with the idea of running Mike Smith at that point in the game. 

Earlier in the period, Smith punched a falling and defenceless Daniel Sedin with a trapper to the nose, leaving him with some nice stitches.  

While Smith wasn’t wholly responsible, as his defender did push Sedin awkwardly as they were about to crash the net, if anyone injures one of your star players, it is okay to look for a chance to retaliate.

In this case, Smith put himself in the crosshairs by deciding he wanted to go out and literally play in traffic, coming out to not only play the puck, but attempting to stickhandle it as well to make a play to clear the zone on the penalty kill. 

He did this behind the net, with no room to dodge the oncoming 6’3”, 215-pound Edler, who was already charging hard for the puck before Smith left his crease.

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In a logical world, the NHL would take into account the goalie's own actions when determining if the hit deserved a suspension, or even a penalty in the first place.

Smith has an extensive history of coming out of the net and using his NHL granted immunity from hits to play the puck in nonsensical ways.

In case it wasn't clear from the video, this hit occurred while the Canucks were on a power play and the puck was being rung around the boards corner to corner to spread the Coyotes defenders out. It wasn't a typical situation where a goalie comes out to stop a dump in, rather all nine skaters were already in the zone.

Smith also drops pretty hard for a guy that is up and throwing punches seconds after he has gotten the call and Edler has a referee on him.

But of course we don't live in a logical world. We live in a world where we missed half a season to a lockout so the NHL-owned Coyotes could set an example of fiscal responsibility and give 21-year-old Oliver Ekman-Larsson a $33,000,000 contract.

Edler, by the rules, is supposed to take all reasonable efforts to avoid leveling the goalie, and he clearly didn’t. Unfortunately, this rule is a stupid one, but it is on the books.

Instead, Edler appeared to be taking advantage of the opportunity to get some retribution for Daniel Sedin and maybe shake up the goalie. 

Smith is now listed as day to day with an upper body injury and left the game, and Edler gets a slap on the wrist from Shanahan and is grounded this weekend. 

It happens rarely, but I actually feel the NHL reached a reasonable verdict based upon the rulebook and video evidence, unlike in the Jannik Hansen suspension earlier this year

Now, if someone can just explain to me how Rich Nash didn’t even get a hearing for this elbow...

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