Philadelphia’s Radko Gudas was not subjected to supplementary discipline for his hit on Daniel Catenacci.
Last Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres rookie was skating through the neutral zone with his head down, and then almost lost it completely.
As you know, I think the head shot rule as it is defined right now is horrible, or at least how it’s being interpreted. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the hits that happen to make some form of contact with the head, whether primary contact or not, are being treated equally.
Don’t mistake that for a crusade to eliminate the head shot rule altogether. To be honest, this Gudas hit is one example that is really different from the rest. This is not a player skating by himself through open ice with full control and stupidly putting himself in harm’s way with exposing skating posture and lack of situational awareness. This is a player who’s already engaged in a position and puck battle, and his focus is understandably occupied.
That doesn’t make Catenacci magically unhittable. He’s still a threat that can be taken out legally with a hockey play. But where Gudas needs to be more controlled is with his own situational assessment.
Catenacci is obviously extremely exposed with his neck craned. Unlike most open ice hits where the chance of primary head contact is unpredictable, the position of Catenacci guarantees there is no possible way to cleanly hit anything other than the head in this case.
Where I’m really torn is that these guys have to make split second decisions, but I think it’s fair to say that Catenacci was in the same position for a significant enough amount of time that Gudas could have allowed contact in a different way. He didn’t have to make a last second shift and then thrust forward. He could have just let Catenacci run into him and basically hit himself.
While I’m almost always on the side of telling muffin to suck it up and take a hit, this is one example where I can kind of see the league’s point. The extra oomph by Gudas into the hit does make it kind of unnecessarily predatory, and I find it peculiar this is one rare case where the league has chosen to accept it at face value.