Eight hundred and thirty. That’s how many games Andrew Cogliano played consecutively before the NHL’s Department of Player Safety (DoPS) suspended the Ducks’ forward for two games – ending the longest active ironman streak in the NHL.
While the hit was indeed questionable, did it warrant a two-game suspension? Or was the DoPS just trying to send a message – one that bars no one from their reach?
For me, it was just the beginning of the latest example showing just how inconsistent the NHL’s DoPS really is. It was a suspension to send a message to the league, rather than the player himself – one that ends an incredible streak for a player who hasn’t faced any trouble in his NHL career.
For me, the Cogliano suspension was a joke.
Cogliano Interferes With Kempe
The hit came on Jan. 13 when the Los Angeles Kings hosted the Ducks in an eventual 4-2 loss at the hands of Cogliano’s teammates. The hit came at 3:37 of the first period with the teams tied at zero.
It resulted in a small skirmish and Cogliano was handed a two-minute minor for interference. However, he remained in the game and went on to play just shy of 15 minutes in helping his team to victory.
It wasn’t even 24 hours later when the DoPS announced that Cogliano would be sitting for two games as punishment for his blindside hit.
“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this check to merit supplemental discipline is the substantial head contact and the significant force,” explains the NHL’s video.
Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano suspended two games for interference on Los Angeles’ Adrian Kempe. https://t.co/RWJ9GN0LB8
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) January 14, 2018
According to Sportsnet, the suspension will end up costing Cogliano $32,258. But it also cost him his ironman streak – the fourth longest in league history and one that had him sitting 134 games behind Doug Jarvis for the record.
Either way you look at it, it’s a pretty rough way to end a streak that’s been that impressive. Sure, the hit was punishable and it was incredibly questionable with the head seemingly the principle point of contact, but Cogliano has no history of supplemental discipline.
By no means does this mean that Cogliano shouldn’t be handed some kind of penalty, but maybe a suspension was too much. Could a fine have done the job, while maintaining his consecutive games played streak?
Where the Inconsistency Lies
So why am I questioning this decision by the DoPS so intently? Well, let’s take you to Jan. 14 when the Calgary Flames were in Carolina to take on the Hurricanes, a game they eventually won 4-1.
Just 40 seconds into the third-period Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho broke into the Calgary zone and was met with a thundering hit from Flames’ captain Mark Giordano. The hit led to a melee and eventually Giordano was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head.
One day later, it was announced that Giordano wouldn’t face any supplemental discipline and that Aho had been diagnosed with a concussion as well as a lower-body injury.
In comparison to the Cogliano hit, the Giordano one did more damage. Kempe will continue to play while Aho will sit indefinitely. While the Flames defenceman did receive a match penalty, Cogliano didn’t. Still, Cogliano was handed a two-game suspension while Giordano didn’t face any further discipline.
So how does the DoPS decipher between the two hits? Why did Cogliano receive two games while Giordano got off relatively scot-free? Did Cogliano’s streak play a role in his discipline?
NHL Policy: No One is Untouchable?
Forget his ironman streak for a second. If he was any player, with no history of discipline, would Cogliano have been suspended? If the DoPS functioned on a consistent platform, the answer would be no.
But Cogliano has something to lose and the league wants to get headhunting out of the game. It would seem that Cogliano would be the perfect example for a department looking to send a message.
Now, I’m not looking to scream conspiracy theory against the NHL’s DoPS. Rather I’m trying to justify an inconsistency that has plagued supplemental discipline in the league for some time.
Watch the hits again – Cogliano’s and Giordano’s. Do they really tell a different story? Does one look worse than the other?
The fact that Cogliano’s streak ends thanks to a suspension is tragic, but it happened. His hit was punishable. However, it becomes a story because there was an identical offence just one day later that went without punishment – outside of the in-game penalty.
The DoPS has to find some way to wipe out the grey areas in their decision-making process. Instead, create clear guidelines that define what is punishable. After all, they say that they’re more likely to discipline repeat offenders, but Cogliano doesn’t qualify as one. In fact, he’s the furthest from being known as one.
That said, the streak ends at 830 games and Cogliano will be eligible to return Jan. 17 when the Ducks host the Penguins. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the new NHL ironman streak belongs to Florida Panthers’ defenceman Keith Yandle at 675 games.
Have thoughts about the column? Let me know on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or @Tape2TapeTHW.
Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on delivering some opinion to hockey’s biggest fans. Whether you agree or disagree, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.