Red Wings' Brad Stuart Sidelined with Broken Jaw: Head Shot Deserves Suspension

Matt HutterAnalyst IJanuary 8, 2011

DENVER - DECEMBER 27:  Brad Stuart #23 of the Detroit Red Wings warms up prior to facing the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 27, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In what has become an all too familiar scenario for the Red Wings this season, they win a game, only to lose an important player in the process.

On December 22nd, the Wings beat the high-powered Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena, but lost super-star Pavel Datsyuk to a broken hand.

Four days later, Detroit handily beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1, but then lost leading goal-scorer Dan Cleary to a fractured ankle.

On Friday night, the Red Wings rallied from a two-goal deficit against the Flames to force overtime and eventually win their first shootout of the season.

However, halfway through the third period, they saw one of their best defenseman in Brad Stuart felled by a blatant hit to the head, breaking Stuart's jaw.

Calgary Flames forward Tom Kostopoulos, the player that targeted Stuart, was assessed a two-minute penalty for roughing on the play. However, a replay of the hit reveals he is deserving of a much more severe reprimand.

Kostopoulos charged at Stuart with his elbow squarely targeted at the defenseman's head.

The force of the hit spun Stuart to the ice and the severity of his injury was immediately apparent based on Stuart's inability to lift himself to his feet.

Head coach Mike Babcock called the hit "disgraceful" after the game, a magnanimous assessment given the severity of the hit.

Kostopoulos is no stranger to NHL discipline.

He has twice been suspended for injurious actions against fellow players and this latest display of reckless stupidity is certainly deserving of severe consequence.

With the NHL beginning the season loudly declaring they are dedicated to diligently enforcing the recently enacted rule directly prohibiting hits to the head, the league has no clearer evidence of such an offense than what transpired at the Saddledome on Friday night.

Stuart was assessed by a doctor on Saturday is estimated to miss six to eight weeks, with a return date scheduled between late February and early March.

Like Datsyuk and Cleary before him, the loss of Stuart is huge for the Red Wings.

His sound defensive play, physical presence and penalty-killing prowess are going to be sorely missed, and nearly impossible to replace.

If and when Kostopoulos receives the suspension he deserves, it will provide cold comfort to a team that will have to endure without one of their best blueliners for the foreseeable future.

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