Breaking news: Detroit’s Brendan Smith collided with a referee last night. Fasten your seatbelts, folks. Is the NHL singling out Dennis Wideman and making an example of him, or does the league really care about its officials? If no discipline comes of this Smith collision, that’s your obvious proof of a conspiracy against Wideman. If the League suspends Smith for 20 games, it’s all even across the board. Those are clearly the only two options the League has, and I can’t wait to see which one they choose.

OR, is there secret option C? Does the League have a loophole to get themselves out of making this Sophie’s choice? I believe they do.  This blogger has the inside scoop, and I’m about to reveal it to you. Pay close attention because I’ve done my homework. After many hours of interviews and discussions with professional players, league insiders, and even officials from the other major sports leagues, I’m finally able to summarize my findings, and the timing couldn’t be better. Now, just hear my idea out. What if the League took an objective look at each incident individually and based the discipline decision strictly on what they saw in that individual moment? A lot of experts have brought this up, and I think it may be catching on. Perhaps they’ve been testing this idea out all along and not telling anyone. It definitely explains the lack of consistency on decisions made by the Department of Player Safety, and it could even possibly explain why a Shea Weber pre-season hit on none other than linesman Don Henderson went unpunished.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I do spend a lot of time criticizing the League for inconsistent punishments. I compare hits and wonder why the suspensions are different. But the thing I look at is the language used by the Department of Player Safety.  They discuss hits using terms such as “predatory”, “late”, and “eligible to be hit”. Hits that are described and interpreted as completely similar language-wise are given vastly different punishments, and some that are described as polar opposites will get the exact same punishment.  It’s not the incidents I’m comparing. It’s the interpretation of the rulebook the League uses to determine the suspension.  So in Brendan Smith vs. Dennis Wideman, I’ll be looking to see if the League (not the Department of Player Safety) uses the same terminology to describe the incidents.  If they do, then 20 games it is.  But don’t cry 20 games just because there was a collision with an official. Look at the language of the rule, look at the options the League has for game numbers, and really take an objective look at what category this falls into.

40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I – Any player who deliberately

strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.)

40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately

applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.

40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player who, by his

actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.

For the record, I do believe these are completely different. The paths of both Wideman and the linesman are consistent and obviously converging. Wideman lunges forward with two hands on his stick and throws a cross check in an offensive maneuver.  I describe how this falls into the category of rule 40.2 here.

Video: Steve Szmilek

The path of Smith is relatively consistent, but the path of the official is not.  Smith puts one hand up in an effort to stop the ref’s momentum, and does not push forward. This is a defensive and protective maneuver. This doesn’t fall into any of the rule 40 categories. No suspension required, and I doubt they’ll even look at it.