Steve Ott threw a solid hit on Cedric Paquette Tuesday night. Ott didn’t get a penalty for that but did have to fight Tampa’s Brian Boyle, who immediately took exception and figured the extra two for instigating was worth sending the message.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety didn’t see enough for a hearing and, except for a few punches to his helmet, Ott got off scott free. Paquette had a cut under his eye but did eventually return to the game. To me, none of that matters.
What matters is Paquette was eligible to be hit. He was originally bent over and vulnerable, having started skating with the puck. To his credit he looks up, sees the hit coming, and gets his head up a little taller to avoid immediate impact. Ott also plays his part well and doesn’t take any strides. He glides in and approaches at an angle instead of straight on.
But just before impact Ott does something that’s become an alarming trend in the league these days. He straightens up and hits in an upward direction.
What’s worse here is he keeps two hands on his stick. That lifts the stick very high, and also forces his lead arm to fold upward. This makes the hit come from the forearm as opposed to the shoulder.
Now, the other argument is Ott jumps into the hit. To me, his inside leg definitely leaves the ice before impact but I can’t tell if he uses that to get any extra leverage into the hit. Bottom line is if he had stayed low and done the exact same thing we probably wouldn’t be talking about it.
The real problem here is the hitter threw the hit in such a way as to target a high area of the body and significantly increase the possibility of head contact. If the league really wants to get serious about head contact, they can’t just punish the result of a hit, studying frames by the millimetre to see if the head was contacted. They need to take a step back, identify the types of hits that are most likely to result in contact, and start meaningfully penalizing them for the hit alone.