Boston Bruins forward Max Talbot was recently suspended two games for a late hit on Jiri Tlusty in a December 20th game. There was no penalty called on the play, but the hit is clearly late and to my mind, clearly unnecessary for the game situation. In the video released by the NHL Department of Player Safety regarding the incident they say “it’s the responsibility of Max Talbot to avoid contact” in this case and I agree completely. Where I disagree with the league is the length of two games for the suspension. This should be probably a 3-4 game suspension and I think the league explains why by themselves. This same video describes the hit as “late and violent. The player takes three strides” (more than the acceptable two) “drives the shoulder up, and makes contact well after Tluslty is eligible to be hit”. The key phrasing comes in the Department’s summary of the investigation which states “what makes the hit subject to supplementary discipline is the extreme lateness of the hit and the predatory nature”.
The league interprets this as “predatory” showing intent to injure and points out the player wasn’t even eligible to be legally hit. These are exactly the type of actions they should be focused on eliminating from the game. A two game suspension isn’t sending that message.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that two games is the correct standard for this type of incident. The even more important factor that blows my mind is comparing the Talbot hit to an earlier two game suspension on Gabriel Landeskog. I wrote about this incident at the time (see Gabriel Landeskog Laid Out Brad Marchand ). The key points from the Department of Player Safety for the Landeskog hit are that “Brad Marchand was eligible to be hit and should have EXPECTED to be hit, Landeskog neither flares his elbow, nor extends unnecessarily upward or outward. He does not launch into the hit, nor does he deliver it later than is acceptable.” They even state that “while we agree with Landeskog that the initial point of contact is to the shoulder, the brunt of the impact is delivered to Marchand’s head”.
Landeskog got two games for this non-predatory clean hit to an eligible player during the regular course of play that was successfully aimed to the shoulder but happened to follow through to the head. Talbot sought out his hit that had nothing to do with the regular course of play and intent to injure an ineligible player, and drove himself up and into the hit for maximum damage. In the eyes of the NHL, these are apparently comparable incidents that warrant the same length of penalty. I’ll never understand that conclusion.