Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
It only took two days, but we have our first suspension of the NHL postseason. Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings gets the distinction this year after he drilled Sharks defenseman Ian White headfirst into the end boards on Thursday night. White left the game and did not return, and Stoll did not receive any discipline during the game for the play.
Stoll did have to answer to the league afterwards, however, as a disciplinary hearing on Friday led to him receiving a one-game suspension, meaning he will sit out Saturday’s tilt at the Shark Tank.
Before we get to whether or not the suspension was warranted, here is the video of the play:
Now, the question obviously is whether or not Stoll should have been suspended in the first place. In the NHL’s eyes, he hit a defenseless player from behind, and while he did not appear to hit White with an elbow, the fact still remains that he did have enough time to hold up to avoid hitting White but chose not to. The NHL decided that this was enough to suspend him for a game, surely with the logic that one playoff game is equivalent to several regular season games.
The NHL did get one thing right about this call, and that was that it was worthy of a suspension. The “you can’t play with your back turned or else you’re inviting this to happen argument” simply does not hold water in this situation. Yes, White did have his back to Stoll on the play, but that does not give him free license to drill Ian on that play. It wasn’t one of those things that happened in the blink of an eye either. Stoll had plenty of time to hold up, but his decision to hit White should come with consequences, and the NHL did get that one right.
What the league did not get right was the length of the suspension. This hit may not have fallen under the auspices of headshots or Rule 48, but blind side hits are still a dangerous proposition no matter where they happen on the ice. If the league is serious about protecting the health of its players, they are going to be forced to legislate these types of plays out of the game. The league missed an opportunity here to do just that, but is that really surprising since they display a complete lack of consistency in applying punishments?
With all of those things said, a two game suspension would have been more appropriate in this instance. If this were the regular season, a four game ban wouldn’t be out of the question for what Stoll did. These types of hits are just as dangerous as headshots, and the NHL needs to tell its players that hitting guys from behind headfirst into the boards simply isn’t acceptable. Will it take a player being paralyzed to make this happen? Let’s hope not.