Department of Player Safety Overrun with Inconsistency

It was just a few weeks back in the midst of the pre-season that San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres laid a seemingly senseless and dirty hit on Ducks forward Jakob Silverberg. The hit knocked Silverberg out of the game and got Torres thrown out of the game.

What followed the game was even more surprising. A 41 game suspension wsa handed down to Torres. The hit in question was pretty bad. Torres targeted his head, hunted him from across the ice, and given his past history, everyone expected the NHL to put their foot down, but 41 games came as a shock to many, especially considering that it probably wasn’t even one of Torres’ dirtiest hit.

Fast forward to the regular season, and you’d have to think that the NHL wasn’t messing around, but here we are with two very questionable hits and no supplemental discipline.

The first of those came from young phenom, Connor McDavid. As Rick Rischall documented last week, it was a very dangerous hit that didn’t even get called on the ice, let alone looked at by the league. The only saving grace to this hit was the fact the Oduya got up and wasn’t injured on the play, but it no doubt could have ended much worse for the Stars defenseman.

The next one of these questionable hits came Wednesday night between Philadelphia and Boston when Zac Rinaldo rocked Flyer forward Sean Couturier with a questionable hit.

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The explanation the NHL offers in the video is suspect at best. Lost in all of the confusion is the fact that this was charging, and despite what the NHL says in the video, Rinaldo was clearly off the ice when he delivered the check. That alone is something that should be looked at.

The other aspect of the charging call is that he came all the way from behind the net to hit Couturier. He never stopped skating along the boards to tie up Claude Giroux, and could clearly see that the puck was now going up the ice the other way, not to mention that Couturier was already tied up with another player, leaving him no way to defend himself.

Former referee Kerry Frasier had some great comments about the play, and put his thoughts on the hit out there:

“There is no purpose to this high, late check (the puck is long since gone and the period is about to end) other than to inflict excessive punishment to an opponent. The violence of the impact with Rinaldo’s elevated shoulder cause Couturier’s head and neck to whiplash as he crashes hard to the ice”

Frasier also mentions that the hit was delivered over a second after the puck had left Couturier’s feet. It wasn’t a bang-bang play, it was flat-out late. Couturier was also injured on the play and Rinaldo is notorious for leaving his feet on hits, that should have factored into the decision as well.

It’s nothing new in the NHL, it’s almost like a roll of the dice when it comes to determining what’s suspendable and what’s not. There comes a point where the NHL needs to set in stone what warrants a suspension and what doesn’t. Some nights Rinaldo’s hit would be a get a suspension, other nights it would not.

Right now the Department of Player safety is plagued by inconsistency.