Tanner Glass was under the microscope on Wednesday for his suspect blindside hit on Vladislav Namestnikov against Tampa Bay Tuesday night. He got a 5 minute major and game misconduct from the on ice officials. The hit, although not blatantly late, was easily avoidable and unnecessary as far as the flow of play. Having said that, was the hit clean?

When determining whether or not this was suspension worthy, the league considered the usual factors: was there head contact, was it late, was it blindside, was there excessive force, etc. The Department of Player Safety chose not to suspend Glass because they deemed the contact as shoulder to shoulder (which I don’t disagree with), and because it wasn’t late (technically by the rules it wasn’t late, but Glass had plenty of time to decide not to hit).

The tangibles they looked at can be summed up as factors proving “whether or not the hit was dirty enough to warrant a suspension.” But that SHOULD NOT be the only question they answer.  There’s a much more important question that could completely change the way we look at player safety: “Was there ever a chance of this hit being clean?”

Namestnikov was always in a vulnerable, unsuspecting position. The angle Glass comes from will always cause a player to spin violently sideways. By keeping his stick down and leading with his shoulder, not jumping or lunging, or elbowing, he did a technically perfect and acceptable hit.  He did everything right, and was still assessed a major penalty that almost everyone agrees with. If a player does everything right and still deserves a major penalty and game misconduct, the danger of the hit must have come from one of two things: a sudden and unpredictable movement by the player taking the hit that made the situation unavoidably dangerous (which isn’t even close to the case), or an error of judgement to make the hit in the first place.  I can’t think of any other reason why a major penalty and game misconduct would be called on an otherwise acceptable hit. If we eliminate the first one, the message coming from that can only mean this hit could never possibly have been clean to begin with, so it should never have been thrown. Based on the rulings and determining factors laid out by the Department of Player Safety all season long, Glass should have known that.

In Penguins game 82, Big Tommy S. caught Matt Read with the same type of hit, one that’s been thrown (and reviewed by Player Safety) many times this season. So should/will Sestito be suspended to start the playoffs?

Looking at  his hit, the only two differences are: 1)The Tanner Glass hit was later after puck release, and 2)Sestito brings his elbow up on the follow through, making it wrongly appear to be more aggressive. Those two things pretty much cancel each other out, which should make it that Sestito’s hit gets reviewed, and then accepted without suspension like the one from Glass. But as we see from results throughout the year, it’s just not that simple.

We’ve seen many “clean” hits this year be suspended just because they created head contact. We’ve seen a few dirty ones where it was deemed the on ice penalty was enough because there was no head contact. In almost all cases, the head contact was caused by the nature of the situation leading into the hit, and not from the hit itself. That is to say, more often than not, the player throwing the hit did everything to make sure the hit was technically clean with body and stick position. The head was still contacted because of the posture of the player being hit. The head was, in many cases, simply unavoidable. I get that sometimes an elbow is used or a player jumps, as examples, but I’m talking about clean hits, arm down, no charge, no rule broken other than head contact. So if only the hit itself causes head contact, not a specific act or decision by the checker, why is there such a variance in suspensions vs non suspensions, fines, and game amounts per incident? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here are just a few examples I wrote about earlier this year:

Landeskog on Marchand (2 games)

Wilson on Lazar (no suspension)

Mark Stone on Ferraro (2 games)

James Neal on Giordano (no suspension)

Max Talbot on Jiri Tlustly (2 games)

Chris Egli on William Nylander (3 games)

White on Jurco (no suspension)

Rinaldo on Pacquette (5 games)

Jared Boll (4 games)