Last night I talked about how shooters in the slot area should expect to be hit and need to be more proactive in protecting themselves (Anderson Rewarded With Goal Against Montreal). Literally within the hour Toronto’s Nazem Kadri took a 5 minute charge on Daniel Sedin, hitting the Canucks co-franchise player just as he sniped a ridiculous top corner wrister from the edge of the slot. No action was taken by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, which deemed Kadri made Sedin’s shoulder the principal point of contact.

To me this is unequivocally the wrong call. First of all, I disagree completely with that assessment.

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Second of all, it doesn’t take into account any of the things that make this hit or any similar hit unsafe. All they care about is was or wasn’t the head contacted severely enough. All they should care about is WHY the head was or wasn’t contacted severely enough.

As I said in my Anderson article, shooters should expect to be hit, vulnerable or not. The very nature of the act of shooting makes a player vulnerable so you take that chance every time you fire a shot. So in judging the Kadri hit, Sedin is no doubt eligible to be hit here, blindsided or not. Blindside hits alone aren’t a penalty anyway. Sedin for his part doesn’t try to blindly cheat his way to a better scoring area. He doesn’t alter his path at the last second and then cry foul. All he takes is the ice given to him straight ahead. As a shooter, he’s done nothing exceptional to expose himself other than looking at the net.

So if the shooter (Sedin) isn’t to blame for the force of the contact, was this just a hockey play or was there some way Kadri as the hitter could have minimized the blow?

Shooters naturally go into a posture that exposes their head, so there should be some grace as far as head contact. If blindside hits alone aren’t illegal, and hits to a vulnerable player alone aren’t illegal, that means they’re only illegal if some other type of infraction contributes to the hit. Therefore, I feel head contact ALONE shouldn’t be illegal as long as there’s no other infraction that contributes to the head contact. The penalty after all is called “illegal check to the head”, which by definition must mean there are some forms of legal hits to the head. So with that said, by saying this hit is not suspension worthy SOLELY on the fact the head wasn’t the principal point of contact means that even if Kadri had done nothing else wrong, IF he had made enough significant contact with the head he would have been suspended for that alone. That makes no sense and contradicts the point of having a Department of Player Safety in the first place. Here’s why I say that:

One of the first examples of this head shot to the shooter scenario I ever wrote about was last season when Gabriel Landeskog took out Brad Marchand and was handed a two game suspension. The reason as per the Department of Player Safety: the angle of approach was from the blindside, and the head was deemed the principal point of contact. Landeskog, by the league’s admission in the video released by Player Safety, technically does absolutely nothing to contribute in making this hit more dangerous than it has to be. Elbow down. No charge. No infraction of any kind. He needed to hit Marchand to stop a goal, and the League refuses to ban these types of hits outright. Yet he was suspended for two games because Marchand’s head just by chance happened to take the majority of the hit.

So here we are one year later almost to the day, and Kadri throws this obviously blindside hit. The difference between this and the Landeskog hit is Kadri leaves his feet, or at the very least thrusts upward into the hit, and follows through with his forearm. He goes out of his way to make this hit dangerous and gets a 5 minute charge for his troubles. This is a blindside hit COUPLED with a dangerous infraction. Charging to me is a strong indicator the official feels Kadri did leave his feet. The video appears to support this as Kadri definitely initiates an upward motion before contact is made. Whether he leaves his feet or not, there’s no doubt he targeted a high spot.

The conclusion of the Department of Player Safety is: no infraction of any kind, effort to make hit less dangerous, stays low but head takes the force of the hit by chance – two games minimum. Major penalty infraction, effort to make hit more dangerous, intentionally hits high but head doesn’t take the force of the hit by some miracle, and it’s nothing.

Doesn’t make a player’s choice easy.

 

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