Hours after I announced a break for Christmas Taylor Hall had to go and obliterate Vancouver’s Philip Larsen. After seeing some of the fan reaction I really wanted to weigh in.
Canucks fans must be pulling their hair out right now praying for a different ending than the Nazem Kadri saga(Kadri Avoids Suspension For Charge). Here we have another hit to the head, this time causing so much damage their player was removed from the game on a stretcher.
First and foremost I really hope Larsen is ok. It’s always uncomfortable to watch injuries like this. It’s also important to note the NHL does NOT take injury into account when deciding whether or not to suspend. However, it DOES take injury into account when determining suspension length.
This has always been a major irritation of mine and I’ll tell you why. When you look at other hits such as the aforementioned Kadri hit, or the Ellis hit on JT BrownPreds, Lightning Exchange Huge Hits(neither of which garnered a suspension)there’s much more violence in them. There’s a complete lack of control shown by these players when delivering their hits.
Taylor Hall here doesn’t even come close to lunging forward. He almost leans back out of the hit trying to minimize impact. There’s no forward momentum whatsoever after the collision. He doesn’t reach forward to follow through and he doesn’t lead into the hit. He is standing a little bit taller, but this isn’t to explode into the hit like the others; it’s because again he’s trying to pull back. His arm is still down, he doesn’t lead with the forearm or the elbow, and he keeps his stick out of the way. All he does is put himself in Larsen’s path. Whether he hits the head or not has pretty much nothing to do with Taylor Hall.
Larsen is low and is extending to play the puck, leaving his head as the forward most part of his body. There is absolutely no way Hall could have hit anything other than the head, and it’s everything to do with Larsen’s posture at the time of contact.
This is where my problem is though, because even though Hall doesn’t do anything dangerous to contribute to the severity of the injury, if they decide to suspend based on head contact alone they’ll have no choice but to lengthen the suspension because Larsen was KO’d. That’s hardly fair.
It seems precedent may have been set years ago with the eerily similar hit thrown by Raffi Torres on Josh Seabrook in the 2011 playoffs, which didn’t even earn Torres hearing, let along a suspension.
But that was a different crew under different pressure. Since then there’s been suspensions for less and no discipline for much worse.
I’d like to believe the Department of Player Safety will look at the precedent set by the ruling of the Calvin De Haan hit on Jonathan Drouin earlier this year, where it was deemed a no suspension based on Drouin’s posture from reaching in with his stick causing the head to be unavoidable.
Larsen is a little different in that he already has the puck, but he’s still leading with his head and that makes it impossible to avoid.
No suspension needed. Just a few prayers for Larsen’s safe recovery.