Friday, 8 March 2019

Season-Ending Hit?

The player to the left is Darren Archibald. Archibald is an undrafted player who played with Barrie and Niagara in the OHL before finding steady work in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, Utica Comets, and with the Belleville Senators this season. Archibald's best season came in 2016-17 when he scored 23 goals and added 24 helpers, but his real strength to any club is his physical game as he is known as a hard hitter. The problem with that, though, is that he occasionally crosses the line when playing his physical brand of hockey. Tonight, he may have thrown a hit that likely ended one player's season and, quite possibly, his own season at the same time.

In a game against the Cleveland Monsters tonight, Archibald lined up Adam Clendening who was coming out of his zone when he dropped the puck back to a teammate.
Wow. That was vicious, and Clendening didn't even see it coming. There is so much wrong with that hit in the approach that Archibald took that it will likely be an easy suspension call from the AHL. The question will be how many games will Archibald get after throwing a blindsided hit where he launched his body into a prone opponent whose head and shoulders end up violently bouncing off the ice.

Some will look at that hit and shrug their shoulders while accusing me of being soft. While I am not against bone-rattling hits, I do worry about Adam Clendening's health after landing on his head and neck. Call me soft if you like, but this hit was while Clendening was breakout of his zone on a power-play and with Archibald lurking on his blind side. I won't be one to endorse admiring one's pass, but the game situation is one where I don't believe any offensive defenceman would expect a monster open-ice hit.

Couple the hit with the fact that it came nearly a second after Clendening gave up control of the puck, and Archibald likely is guilty of interference on the hit by textbook definition. He was not penalized following the hit in this game, but there's zero chance that the AHL doesn't take a look at the timing of the hit when determining supplemental discipline.

The upward trajectory of Archibald's hit is what caused Clendening to fall backwards and land on his head and neck, and that too should be factored into the decision on discipline since he blindsided Clendening with the hit. There was no way for Clendening to prepare for the impact nor the fallout from the collision, and this kind of predatory hit is what all leagues are trying to reduce. One can't launch one's shoulder into a defenceless opponent without garnering some sort of discipline for that kind of action. Like Tom Wilson's hit on Zach Aston-Reese in the playoffs last season, this upward impact by Archibald likely will land him in hot water.

Darren Archibald is a hard-working, blue-collar player who simply made a bad decision, but those decisions still come with consequences. There are 14 games remaining in the Belleville Senators season, and they will see the Cleveland Monsters once more in the 11th game of that 14-game stretch. I am certainly not calling for payback by any means, but you have to suspect that the Monsters have a few players who have circled April 6 on their calendars if Archibald is in the lineup.

Archibald's past has seen him suspended just once in his AHL career, and that was for just one game. I doubt you're going to see the AHL hand down a double-digit suspension on this hit, but if I were handing out discipline for the AHL I'd sit him down for the next three games at minimum. Personally, if there were no CBAs nor appeals for suspensions, I'd sit Archibald for ten games, but that would be overturned in a heartbeat.

Whatever punishment Archibald gets - assuming he gets punishment - it likely won't be an equal trade-off for the amount of time that Adam Clendening will be out. With Cleveland two points back of both Utica and Belleville in the AHL North Division standings with a game in-hand, every point matters down the stretch. For the Monsters, it seems like they'll be forced to battle for a playoff spot without one of their key players thanks to Darren Archibald.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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