What will the League do?

In the Caps 2-1 win over the Thrashers, a prime example of what the NHL is trying to eliminate was presented when Colby Armstrong hit Mathieu Perreault. While it was no Cooke on Savard, it was a pretty blantant hit to the head.

Mike Green received plenty of criticism and was said to have placed “one of the worst elbows we’ve seen this year” on Michael Frolik. He was suspended three games for the hit. Although the hits are different, if that suspension was justifiable, there is no doubt Armstrong should have some nachos in the press box.

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A few things:

  • This wasn’t a blindside hit, and I personally never thought it was. Matty saw Armstrong. Whether it was at the last second or sooner, he saw him. I’ve seen comments saying something to the extent of, “Keep you head up kid! This is hockey!” This wasn’t a Mitchell-on-Toews kind of hit, where a huge open ice hit was the result of having your head down. Players usually take the hit to make a play, but you are pretty much helpless when a guy decides to punch you in the head.
  • Armstrong clearly does not lean in with a shoulder or elbow. He leads into Perreault’s jaw with his fist.
  • There was debate on whether it was an elbow/forearm shiver. It looks like a punch to me, but Armstrong might have caught Matty in the ear with a forearm during the follow through of his punch.
  • By the bottom frames, Perreault is essentially wearing Armstrong as a backpack. Armstrong is in the air, and in the video, it’s easier to see his skates leave the ice. He does a bit of a spin-o-rama punch.

The debate about the suspension will continue, but it probably won’t reach the irritating level of discussion that Alex Ovechkin, Green, Cooke, and Mike Richards received. We’ve got a guy on a team desperate to just make the post season and another who is just some call up whose name people don’t even get right.

There will be the issue of injury. When the Ovechkin-on-Campbell hit happened, people from TSN’s Bob McKenzie to your average fan said, “If there’s no injury, there’s no suspension.” Even Colin Campbell said it himself, “Look, if there’s no injury on the play, we probably, we don’t do anything, but that’s part of the supplemental discipline process. If you cause a player to be injured, then you have to be responsible for the play that you’re involved in, if there’s any carelessness or recklessness in it.” I mean, honestly? Really? Green-on-Frolik: No injury, two games for Green. Ovechkin-on-Gleason: No injury (Gleason was down for a few seconds but continued to play), two games for Ovi. (If you have examples from other teams, please do tell. I’m just more familiar with the Caps.) How exactly is “carelessness” and “recklessness” measured on the Colie Scale?

Then there’s intent. As we’ve heard time and time again, you can never really know if there’s intent to injure and every player will deny that there was. So how exactly do you base suspensions on hits that don’t lead to injury? How is the carelessness determined? Matty clearly wasn’t injuried extensively on the play, but it seems to me like there is some kind of intent when you are looking a guy in the face and bring up your fist to hit him. But who knows for sure?

With all of the hits to the head and hits leading to injury, everyone is constantly asking, “What happened to respect? Players need to have more respect towards each other.” That’s exactly what has come to my mind ever since Perreault was called up. He’s been on the receiving end of a boarding call, a hit from behind, and now this. Some players clearly have no respect for the young center. Maybe it’s that fact that he’s small, listed at 5’10, 174 pounds (and that’s probably a little generous). They figure they can take advantage of him. He’s more of a skill guy, not so much a chirper or grit player like Scott Walker or Caps prospect Stefan Della Rovere. So maybe it’s because he’s not yet established himself in the League like a Martin St. Louis, and he’s not going to drop his gloves. Whatever the reason, the disrespect towards Perreault and other players needs to stop or the hits will just get out of hand with players knowing they can get away with it.

If players see that a punch in the face, not in a scrum or fight, constitutes as a clean hit, get ready for plenty of shots to the head. I mean, the League wasn’t looking to get rid of those anyway…

UPDATE: Colby Armstrong has been suspended for two games. He’ll miss games against Pittsburgh and New Jersey. His first game back is in Washington.

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Filed under Hockey, NHL, Sports, Washington Capitals

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