I would love to hear the NHL Department of Player Safety explanation of why they didn’t feel the need to suspend Alexei Emelin for his “elbow” to Dallas’s Antoine Roussel Wednesday night. Not because I think it’s the wrong choice but because it would probably be a good educational tool for the casual viewer.
I’m torn on the incident myself, partly because there’s no good video of the 5 seconds or so leading up to the contact. All we see is Roussel coming in low, slowing down and then trying to bail. This is kind of unpredictable.
Emelin had the puck and saw a guy coming at him. He’s sensing a hit. Roussel is coming straight for him and he has no room to sidestep it. He chooses to get rid of the puck and brace for contact.
Roussel does a good job with his stick to make a play at the puck and in fact, does block the puck. As I said, he also blocks the path of Emelin. A perfect forecheck.
But as he’s leaned forward and probably senses he’s not as set for contact, he tries to stop up and turns to the side to sidestep the hit. Emelin has no reason to expect anything other than a front on collision, and he reacts affordingly, by putting his weight forward to counter.
When Roussel twists and there’s not nearly as much resistance as he was expecting, Emelin is carried unnaturally forward by his own momentum. Roussel’s head happened to be at the right height to take the forearm.
That seems like enough reasonable doubt to me to leave it alone.
I’m also kind of surprised there’s no group pleading self defence. When league hero Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers cross checked Philly’s Wayne Simmonds in the head and then got punched for it, I seem to remember a lot of people excusing the cross check as a normal way to prepare for taking a hit. Not that I agree with that, but I just find it hard to believe there’s not more of a split here.
I’m not fully in Emelin’s corner, it consider this a Devil’s Advocate.