By Allan Muir
It didn’t take long for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to schedule a come-to-Jesus meeting with Alex Edler after the Vancouver defender steamrolled Phoenix goalie Mike Smith on Thursday night. By early Friday morning, Edler knew he would have a chance to plead his case over the phone at 6 PM EDT.
Edler’s defense, of course, will fail to dissuade Sheriff Shanny from planting him in the press box for a couple of games. Charging into goalies at full speed, even when they’re out of the crease, is still frowned upon by the DPS.
Leaping up and slamming into an opponent’s head from behind though? That’s still a bit of a grey area. Or so it would seem, given the curious decision not to subject Rick Nash to a supplemental discipline hearing for his brain-dead assault on Florida’s Tomas Kopecky earlier in the evening.
Actually, supplemental is a bit misleading. That would suggest Nash faced some initial punishment for the hit.
Nope. He wasn’t even penalized on the play. Pretty much everyone dropped the ball on this one.
It’s hard to believe anyone watching in real time or on tape wouldn’t recognize it as an egregious foul. So many of the criteria Brendan Shanhan has checklisted in previous suspension explanations are in place: the principal point of contact was the head, Nash leaped so high off the ice before hitting Kopecky it was almost comical, and Kopecky was hit from behind and essentially defenseless.
The replay didn’t show it, but Nash probably took Kopecky’s wallet and stole his identity as well. It was that bad.
The fact a Ranger appears to have gotten away with one is sure to bring out the tinfoil-hat wearers bemoaning a pro-New York conspiracy, or at least a winking negligence, at the home office.
That’s not the case.
But there’s no denying the optics are terrible. Whether or not a different standard was applied to a key member of a marquee franchise, that’s the impression left among a large segment of hockey supporters who’ve seen seemingly lesser incidents earn at least a sit-down.
It also feeds into the belief there’s no rhyme or reason when it comes to supplemental discipline. Shanahan and his team may well agonize over every decision, but brushing this one off as a non-event reinforces the image of spinning-wheel justice.
Look, we get it. No two incidents are exactly alike and so there’s always going to be room for nuanced interpretation. Shanahan’s experience as a player puts him in a better position than almost anyone to make those calls. But that doesn’t make him immune to criticism. There has to be some logical consistency, a sense of overriding principle. And that’s what’s missing here.
Forget that blown offside in Colorado. This is the season’s worst non-call.