While many eyes were on the trade market, namely the movement of Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets, behind the scenes, a great deal of attention was being paid to arguably the best player in the NHL. Connor McDavid was advised he would be having a hearing with the department of NHL Player Safety for his hit on Nick Leddy of the New York Islanders during Thursday night’s victory. The hit was deemed a two-minute penalty for a hit to the head during the game, but the NHL decided they wanted to take a closer look.
McDavid wound up being the hero in the game, scoring the overtime winner, but NHL Player Safety ruled that McDavid’s hit was illegal (you can see it below in the video) and has suspended him for two games.
The Ruling By the Department of NHL Player Safety
With any hit that is examined by the league, the department will come out with an explanation for their decision. Whether McDavid had been suspended or merely fined for his hit, the Department of Player Safety describes exactly why they ruled the way they did.
Taking into account the hit itself, the point of contact, the player’s attempt to avoid the hit and the history of the player (repeat offenders are judged much more harshly), all of those things factor in, including whether or not the player on the receiving end of the illegal hit was injured. In this case, Leddy was not.
This is what the department had to say about the hit:
As the video shows, McDavid is back-checking through center as the Islanders enter the zone on the rush. The puck is moved to Leddy who bobbles the puck briefly before chipping the puck deep into the Oilers zone. As he releases the puck, McDavid comes in front of Leddy’s body, clips Leddy’s head with his shoulder, making the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head. It is important to note that both factors of the illegal check to the head rule are met on this hit. First, the head is the main point of contact. Second, the head contact on this play is avoidable.
The video goes on to give detail as to how McDavid could have avoided the hit, taken a different approach and done more to not make contact with the head. They suggested that because McDavid had no history of a prior suspension, the hit was deemed merely a two-game suspension.
While they didn’t use the word “merely”, this is a huge loss for the Oilers.
What Happens Next for McDavid?
For McDavid, this hit and suspension will go on his record. That said, he shouldn’t have much of a reason to worry.
Hardly a dirty player, he takes far more abuse on a nightly basis than he dishes out and while this hit wasn’t pretty, it likely wasn’t an intent to injure. Certainly not known as a malicious player, the hit McDavid delivered was ugly.
There will certainly be questions about the consistency of these calls by the NHL Player Safety committee, but at this point, none of that will be relevant. McDavid will sit for two games and the Oilers will have to make some hard choices.
What’s Next for the Oilers?
Edmonton will need to make a decision as to where they go from here. McDavid will miss the remaining Oilers games heading into the NHL Trade Deadline and for a team so close to being out of the playoff hunt and needing McDavid to stay in the race, this could mean the Oilers become sellers at the deadline.
Can the Oilers still make the playoffs? Yes, but the odds were already slim. Without McDavid for the next two games, they got even slimmer.
While McDavid could appeal the decision and try to recoup any lost money, it will take at least the two games for the NHL to come back with a decision on the appeal. McDavid doing so is unlikely at best.