Elliott Friedman over the past few years has easily become my favourite NHL reporter. I trust that he has a lot of insider knowledge and makes insightful and informed opinions on the information he’s given. During last night’s broadcast when he and the panel were discussing the possibility of a suspension of Viktor Arvidsson for his cross check to the throat of Carlo Colvaiacovo Friedman said that because the official assessed a 5 minute major in the moment (automatically ejecting Arvidsson from the game) suspension might not be necessary. Earlier yesterday afternoon the NHL handed down a one game suspension to Brandon Dubinsky for a similar cross check to the back of the head of Sidney Crosby, and Friedman thinks perhaps the league would consider Arvidsson already losing playing time as enough of a punishment.
This prompts an argument about what the role of the NHL Department of Player Safety has in these cases. If the department’s sole function is to make sure players are given adequate punishments then fine, I don’t disagree with giving players credit for time already served, so to speak. To me though these suspensions and punishments represent a far more important decision, and that is to make it known that the specific act in question, whatever it is, can not be tolerated now and will not be tolerated in the future. I’m not saying they should go around throwing the book at everyone. What I’m saying is that suspending Dubinsky for one game doesn’t really say “this is the appropriate punishment for the crime” more than it says “we saw what you did, we didn’t like it all, and if you or anyone else does it again we’ll be looking then too.” The NHL has a chance to reinforce this right away and to turn around 24 hours later and say “you know what? That sort of play actually only falls into the general rules of the game and doesn’t really need anything from us” would be a bad message. If the league feels Arvidsson has already served enough time they should at least hit him with a fine as an adknowledgement from them that this incident went beyond the bounds of what is acceptable under the normal realms of the game.