Should Andrew Ladd Be Suspended for His “Big Hit”?

 

Jim Neveau, Blackhawks Correspondent

Friday night featured an intense battle between two Original Six franchises at the United Center in Chicago. The Blackhawks battled the Canadiens in a physical battle that was decided late in the third period, with the Hawks prevailing 3-2 on Patrick Sharp’s goal in the third period.

The big story of the game, however, was the play involving Hawks LW Andrew Ladd and Canadiens F Matt D’Agostini.

Andrew Ladd: Is Suspension Imminent? (photo property of Pam Rodriguez)

Andrew Ladd: Is Suspension Imminent? (photo property of Pam Rodriguez)

Less than four minutes into the game, D’Agostini was skating back toward a play when Ladd slammed into him near the blue line. Ladd was assessed a major penalty for elbowing, as well as a game misconduct, which left the Hawks with only 10 true forwards, a number that doesn’t inspire confidence for an already short-handed team.

As for D’Agostini, he did not return to the game after the hit, and looked extremely shaken up afterwards.

Needless to say, the blogosphere exploded after the hit had taken place. With hits from Brad Richards, Tuomo Ruutu, and others in recent days dominating the NHL headlines, and with ex-players like Keith Primeau calling for a “head-hit” ban, the Ladd incident will serve to keep that fire stoked.

Blogs from Puck Daddy to Blackhawks Confidential have discussed the hit already, and surely more will follow. The big question, with the seeming epidemic of head-shots in early going of the NHL season, is this: will Andrew Ladd be suspended for his hit?

Im my opinion, Ladd needs to be suspended, but only for one game. Screen-caps used by various websites have shown that his shoulder, not his elbow, landed the brutal blow to D’Agostini’s head, and a lot of folks are using this argument to say that Ladd should receive no further punishment for his hit.

I view the situation a little bit differently. Sure, Ladd didn’t lead out with his elbow on the play, contrary to the penalty that he received, but what he did is something that I feel lessens the integrity of the game: he deliberately aimed the blow at his opponent’s head, which isn’t kosher in an era that scientists are revealling even more compelling evidence that concussions never truly heal.

Andrew Ladd (photo property of Wikipedia)

Andrew Ladd (photo property of Wikipedia)

In Blackhawks Confidential’s coverage of the hit, author Mike Kiley discussed how the Hawks will likely argue that since Vancouver D Willie Mitchell wasn’t suspended for his hit on Jonathan Toews, then Ladd shouldn’t be suspended either.

This is a ludicrous comparison, considering that there was absolutely no evidence that Mitchell deliberately hit Toews in the head. If anything, he may have just been looking for a shoulder-to-shoulder blow, and he was definitely skating toward center ice, not deliberately at his opponent that he intended to hit.

Ladd, on the other hand, skated quite a ways to deliver his blow to D’Agostini, which caused him to have enough momentum to send his victim sprawling in a giant heap to the ice.

When the length of the head start is taken into account, it seems to me that Ladd was deliberately head-hunting, and that should be adequate reason to suspend him for at least one game.

The issue, of course, is that the NHL may decide that they need to firmly send a message against these kind of head-hits. If you watch videos online of the incidents in question, it certainly seems like a huge melee results afterward, whether or not the hit is clean. After the Mitchell, Toews, and Ladd hits, the two teams engaged in the kind of fight you would see in a movie like Slap Shot, or at least Ready to Rumble.

With the violence of these post-hit fights, Colin Campbell may decide that Ladd is going to be the lucky winner of the “send-a-message” contest, and suspend him for four or five games. Everyone will cry foul, and NHL analysts and Internet pundits will rise up and decry the NHL for over-reacting to the hit.

With any sort of luck, this will not happen, but in the end, all that matters is that Ladd should at least be punished for his head-hunting ways. One game is the appropriate length, but if the NHL decides that it needs to send a message, then they will be making a big mistake.Wait until a guy blatantly leads with an elbow, but don’t send a message at an inappropriate time.

James Neveau

James Neveau

James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site's NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.

11 Comments

  1. “The difference was that Ladd went airborn to hit D’Agostini whreas Mittchell did not.”

    Crip, you’re wrong. Ladd doesn’t leave his skates until after the hit.

    Not to sidestep the problem, but can something be done mouthguard-wise for better protection? Maybe ban shoulder pads so the hitter thinks twice?

  2. Good to see that you’re not expressing a biased opinion seeing as how Chicago is your team and I agree Ladd should get a game for that. Great work Jim just one correction, Mike Richards was the guy who threw a controversial hit (on David Booth) not Brad Richards.

  3. The length of a ‘head start’ cannot seriously be considered as supporting evidence to suspend a player for a hit. D’Agostini had the puck, and Ladd went to make a play on him. If anything, this ‘head start’ should have given D’Agostini even more time to defend himself if he was actually looking up. It’s not Ladd’s fault that he didn’t see him coming.

    Additionally, it is not ludicrous to compare Mitchell’s hit to Ladd’s. Both were hard, legal hits where the victim had no idea it was coming. And if you are going to say Ladd had this ‘head start’, then you would have to say Mitchell had one as well. When Mitchell stepped out of the box, you can’t say that he had no intention of hitting Toews when he saw the puck go towards him. He also probably knew that Toews wouldn’t know he was coming out of the box.

    At any rate, Ladd has received enough punishment. Ladd led with his shoulder, and the guy had his head down. Unfortunate that he got hurt but what can you do

  4. The difference was that Ladd went airborn to hit D’Agostini whreas Mittchell did not. I am a Hawks fan and was quite pissed to see Toews sprawled on the ice and equally scared when he tried to skate off the ice. But, Mitchell’s hit was a hard hit where Ladd went high…and I am a BLACKHAWKS FAN.

    I really do not want to take the physical play out of the game…it is just to great a sport. But, the sheer physics of bigger, faster players created a heightened potential for injury and we need to make it clear to the players out there that head shots are not to be tolerated. Years ago there were bench-clearing brawls amid much discussion about whether or not it was hockey. Rules have drastically reduced these so I would think that rules again can make a positive difference,

    • Absolutely – rules need to be modified to account for the massive increase in size of players and speed. Keep in mind – it’s not only faster players but removing the red line has also increased the overall speed.

  5. “This is a ludicrous comparison, considering that there was absolutely no evidence that Mitchell deliberately hit Toews in the head…”

    And you have evidence either way, HOW?

    Mitchell & Ladd hits were identical.

  6. Vicious hit? Definitely!
    Legal? Without question.

    “Keep your stick on the ice and head up!”

  7. It all starts with Ovechkin…because he can get away with it…pretty much everyone who says he got away with it is gonna pretty much get away with it…Ive seen a few hits from ladd. It was a solid hit that resulted being towards the head. could have used his shoulder…or anything else but his hands went directly to the head on that play (it was mike not brad…whats SMV said) This warrants a suspension whether its 1 or 5…but also the hits from ovechkin….NHL posterboy deserves the same amount…

  8. Just an aside, that would be MIKE Richards, not BRAD Richards. Brad Richards is the Dallas Stars forward (and former Lady Byng winner). Mike Richards is the hard hitting Flyers forward,

  9. I may be in the minority but I think Ladd has already served his punishment. Ladd was coming off the hawks bench so he was closer than at the other end of the rink and from the looks of it D’Agostini wouldn’t have been hit in the head except that he moved to avoid the hit and thus Ladd’s shoulder hit him higher. While I agree that certain hits need to be evaluated and rules need to change you can’t make one player the scape goat for a system that doesn’t already have rules and penalties in place NOW to protect players. First change the rules and punishment then hold the players accountable. Not the other way around.

  10. I don’t know….I’m a huge Habs fan and as much as I hate ti say it, Matt – Keep your Head up! The Head Shot angle of the incident bugs me but overall I see it as Ladd playing good hard hockey. Maybe the elbow was a little high and perhaps he even deserves a major for an attempt to injure but I don’t see a suspension for this.

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