Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Not Suspendable

I was disappointed when Matt Niskanen was basically shown the door in the Pittsburgh, but the business side warranted it. As a fan, you're always disappointed to see talent walk out the door, but that's the reality of the salary cap era. Frankly, the distribution of talent makes for a better league despite what some people will tell, and the proof is seen in Washington this season where Niskanen and Orpik have stabilized a Capitals blue line that was nearly imploding last season. Couple their arrivals with Barry Trotz's effective coaching and Braden Holtby's re-emergence as a legitimate starter, and you have the Capitals roaring up the standings in the Metropolitan.

However, this isn't a "Washington is great" article as much as it is a "shut up, Flyers fans" article. If that seems harsh, it's because the outrage seen on social media after Niskanen's hit tonight was ludicrous and demonstrates the lack of knowledge a lot people have when it comes to the NHL rule book. And when it comes to Philly, disbelief becomes a national emergency when one of their players is on the receiving end.

Matt Niskanen isn't known for his physical play as much as Orpik is, but he rattled Philly's Scott Laughton tonight with a thunderous check. Granted, Niskanen took a pretty solid hit from Wayne Simmonds along the boards, so perhaps he felt he needed to administer a little tit-for-tat. Regardless, here's the hit that Niskanen popped Laughton with, and it's a beauty!
Great hit, right? Personally, I see nothing wrong with it, but I want to break down some of the arguments made by unofficial members of the NHL Player Safety Department via their social media accounts. I say that in jest, but these people want Niskanen suspended when it's extremely clear that what Flyers fans are seeing is something the rest of the planet isn't seeing.

HE LEFT HIS FEET!: Fantastic argument, but it didn't happen. I posted the image to the right to show that Laughton's body is already moving in the opposite direction that he was moving when he had the puck, and you can clearly see that Niskanen's skates are on the ice. While his skates come off the ice as he's standing Laughton up, he does not leave his feet while making the hit, so it can't be charging. After all, Rule 42.1 states, "A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner." Niskanen didn't "jump into" Laughton, so no penalty. He could be suspended for the violent nature of the hit, but does the NHL really want to set that precedent?

HEAD SHOT!: No. Not even close. This is clearly someone screaming about Laughton's head snapping back due to the nature of the hit, but the hit was shoulder to chest upon the initial point of contact. The image to the right - the one with Laughton's head in front of Niskanen's shoulder - is clear evidence that this was not a head shot. In fact, to claim this is a head shot means you probably didn't see the hit. I know the play happened fast, so seeing Laughton's head snap back as a function of physics rather than a function of shoulder-to-face might be excusable had it not been for the multiple angles and replays that were shown of the hit. Sorry, Flyers fans, the "head shot" theory holds no water.

Was it a violent hit? Absolutely. The Flyers have ruled Laughton out indefinitely with an upper-body injury at this point, and GM Ron Hextall won't show any cards when it comes to what type of injury it is. But should it be a reviewable hit worthy of a suspension? Not in my books. Solid check, unfortunate results.

Hey, Laughton! Keep your head up, kid!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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