In yet another gladiatorial-style Central Division match-up, the Blackhawks and Wild were engaging in some hostile play midway through the first period when Charlie Coyle and Duncan Keith met up along the boards. Some pushing and shoving led to Coyle dumping Keith by pushing him over his stick, causing Keith to land on his back with Coyle standing over him. Yes, it should have been a penalty, but neither referee raised his arm. It was at this point that Duncan Keith made a poor choice. Here's the video.
On the replay, you can see Keith look up at Coyle before rolling over and bringing his stick over top where it catches Coyle square in the face. While the video doesn't show it, Keith protested his dismissal from the game by trying to portray the stick swing as an accident as he rolled over, but let's be honest: that was planned and it was downright dirty.
Coyle, whose face was bloodied and it appears his nose was broken, didn't suffer any lasting consequences from the attack other than a cut and a realignment of his nose, but you could see him glaring at Keith in the video above. I would have been incensed as well. What Keith did was absolute garbage, and it should cost him in a big way.
How big, you ask? I'm starting the bidding at ten games. Chris Simon received a 25-game suspension for his stick-swinging incident against Ryan Hollweg. Marty McSorley spent 23 games away from the ice for his stick-to-head attack on Donald Brashear. Brad May sat for 20 games after slashing Steve Heinze in the nose. Tony Granato took 15 games off for slashing Neil Wilkinson in the head. Ted Green, David Shaw, Owen Nolan, and Scott Niedermayer and made contact to the head of an opponent with a stick in a deliberate way, and all of them got ten or more games to sit and think about their actions.
Duncan Keith doesn't have the history of suspensions and questionable actions like some of the men above, but neither did Scott Niedermayer, Tony Granato, or Owen Nolan and they all sat for ten games or more. The Blackhawks have five games left in the regular season, so half of Keith's suspension would be fulfilled prior to the playoffs starting. The final five games would be served in the playoffs or, if Chicago is swept out of the post-season, into the opening game of the 2016-17 season.
Some will say that I'm being far too harsh. Others will agree. I respect both opinions, but what makes this an easy call for me is that Keith looked at Coyle, made a conscious decision to swing his stick, and then caught Coyle in the face with his egregious slash. It wasn't accidental no matter how much of a case Keith makes for it. This was a deliberate slash to the face of a player with whom Keith had been battling who took a liberty on Keith once the play had moved away from them.
Ten games. There is precedence for the suspension length and it is entirely warranted.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!