The Detroit Red Wings are trying desperately to send their quarterfinal series against the Anaheim Ducks back to California tied 2-2, but that task just got a lot harder thanks to a ruling by the NHL. After his hit on Toni Lydman, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader will miss the next two games and may end up being done for the season if the Wings can’t win at least one of the next two games without him.
But what this points to is another example of the NHL playing by it’s own inconsistent rules when it comes to discipline for hits during games. The 2-game suspension handed to Abdelkader is the same exact punishment handed to Senators defenseman Eric Gryba for his bloody hit on Lars Eller. But while Gryba’s hit was nasty aesthetically, it looked like a legal hit that just ended up looking way worse than it really was. It can be argued that Gryba hit Eller’s head, but the blood that everyone saw came from Eller’s head hitting the ice, not from Gryba hitting Eller. It wasn’t a good situation, but it also wasn’t as bad or as malicious as Abdelkader’s hit on Lydman.
Abdelkader’s hit on Lydman was far more vicious and warranted a suspension of more than two games but that’s in contrast to the Gryba suspension, which is a case of the NHL not really paying attention to what they’re doing.
Basically, Abdelkader’s suspension is a resetting of the punishment clock, and it’s sort of an admittance that the Gryba situation was mis-handled. But it could also be the NHL not knowing what the hell they’re doing in handing out suspensions and are just doing so as they see fit. What giving a two game suspension to Abdelkader does is make his hit look like Gryba’s far less violent hit on Eller. Gryba never launched his body and inadvertently made contact with Eller’s head; Abdelkader launched his body and was going for blood — they weren’t the same hit.
Brendan Shanahan put himself in this situation by over-reacting to the Gryba hit, as the blood on the ice, the stretcher and everything surrounding he hit made it look worse than it was. As I said, this could be the NHL hitting the reset button on suspensions, but they set the bar pretty low and while you don’t want to overdo a suspension for Abdelkader just because you messed up the first suspension, you can’t undersell the punishment either.
The next test in the NHL’s sanity will be what happens to those involved in the Montreal-Ottawa brawl that involved two whole lines of players. Of anyone is given a suspension of longer than three games, it’s proof that the NHL just doesn’t have a sane grasp on how to properly discipline players. If they have rest everything with Abdelkader’s suspension, then they’ll properly handle punishments from here on out.
But that may be me giving Shanahan and the NHL way too much credit.