I honestly don’t see how Mike Richards can be suspended for his hit on David Booth last night.
With the image of Dion Phaneuf’s preseason hit on Kyle Okposo still fresh in the collective hockey consciousness, how could Richards possibly be suspended?
Phaneuf’s hit, deemed legal by the NHL and therefore warranting no disciplinary action, set a preseason precedent for exactly the type of hit seen in last night’s Flyers 5-1 win over the visiting Florida Panthers (for excellent recaps and fan reactions, visit Broad Street Hockey and The 700 Level ).
What is completely bizarre is that with regard to the NHL’s decision on the Phaneuf hit, there appears to be no official record of the NHL’s reasoning on the matter.
When searching the news sections of NHL.com, the Calgary Flames' web site and the New York Islanders web site (both affiliated with NHL.com), and just the Internet in general, the only decision handed down by the NHL that you can find on anything related to the incident is that Islanders player Pascal Morency was suspended for five games for leaving the bench to go after Phaneuf in the seconds after Okposo went down.
The Islanders' web site even went as far as to explain the reason for the supplementary discipline handed down, citing NHL Rule 70.2 for leaving his players’ bench on a legal line change .
But as far as why Dion Phaneuf, the guy at the center of the storm, was not suspended, the NHL calls out the crickets?! Are you kidding me?
The closest thing I could find to the NHL’s explanation of their decision not to suspend Dion Phaneuf came from Elliotte Friedman’s Twitter feed, via Kukla’s Korner :
Hit was reviewed…no suspension will be given. Reasons: wasn’t late, was not targeting head, did not launch or leave feet before collision
-Elliotte Friedman via his Twitter.
Well, there you go. Everything you need to deem whether Richards’ hit was “suspension worthy:”
- Richards was not late with the hit. It came just as Booth had dished the puck.
- There is absolutely zero proof that Richards was targeting the head. None. Zip. Nada.
- Richards did not launch or leave his feet prior to the collision.
Verdict: no suspension.
The fact the NHL has no officially stated position on the Phaneuf hit is a huge disservice to the game.
Now that there is hit similar to the Phaneuf/Okposo incident such as Richards’ hit on Booth last night—because there is no clearly defined precedent for such hits available to the media and fans alike—the emerging opinion of Mike Richards this morning is the Flyers Captain is just another dirty birdy who resides at Broad & Pattison.
Fact of the matter is, by the NHL’s previous reasoning on the Phaneuf hit, that is anything but the case, and the whole situation is grievously unfair to Mike Richards, and the Flyers organization in general.
Paul Holmgren’s assessment of the hit was about as spot on as you can get. To paraphrase: Anyone who thinks that hit was illegal obviously doesn’t watch a lot of hockey.
For Ronny's daily Flyers thoughts, visit the Ronnybrook blog.