Saturday afternoon’s matinee game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers was a very eventful game. There were a significant amount of chippy plays, big hits, and fights to go around.
All of that stemmed from something that happened early on in the game.
Wayne Simmonds and Ryan McDonagh were involved in an altercation behind the play, one which involved McDonagh attempting to decapitate Simmonds, and Simmonds retaliating by giving McDonagh a jab to the chops.
Simmonds was assessed a match penalty and was ejected, McDonagh received a minor for slashing and a minor for hi-sticking. That meant judgement day was about to descend upon Simmonds.
League source says no hearing for Wayne Simmonds. He will not be suspended. @SWhyno notes the match penalty won't be rescinded.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) February 7, 2016
That decision by the NHL was met with a boatload of criticism from fans of the Bluehsirts, some of it warranted, some of it not. Perhaps the most irate of anyone involved, was Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who ripped apart the NHL for allowing Simmonds to get off the hook for the jab to the face of the All-Star defenseman.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) February 8, 2016
There’s a few glaring holes in the head coach’s statement and a few reasons why the NHL got this one right.
First and foremost, I’ll start by addressing Vigneault’s claim that if it were Sidney Crosby, this would be a different story. This reeks of hypocrisy considering Marc Staal cross-checked Sidney Crosby in the back of the head a few years ago in the playoffs, and received no supplemental discipline whatsoever.
That statement is also very ironic, because Crosby was more recently involved in a situation with ex-Ranger Brandon Dubinsky, where he was cross-checked in the back of the head. Dubinsky received a suspension from the league for the dangerous play, which was nearly identical to what McDonagh was trying to do to Simmonds.
Despite what some people claim, it was not a sucker punch (somewhere, enforcers of the late 70’s and early 80’s are laughing). McDonagh and Simmonds were tied up, face to face, and exchanging “pleasantries” with each other, and Simmonds happened to take exception and give him a jab to the jaw. Need I remind you how many times this routinely happens in front of the net? Simmonds didn’t wind up and take a full swing at his face, it was a jab that is part of the game. It’s hockey, scrums happen on a nightly basis, if McDonagh doesn’t go down there, it’s likely coincidental minors, and that’s it.
Speaking of McDonagh going down, that brings me to my next point. The fact that there is this inherent idea in the NHL that suspensions should be based on injuries, is absolutely absurd. If the Ranger defenseman didn’t collapse on that particular play, then there would be no talk of anything. Imagine the roles were reverse, and Simmonds was injured on the play. It likely would have been an injury that was significantly worse than what happened to McDonagh. Does that mean only then there would be talk about McDonagh being suspended?
Where is the outcry regarding a cross-check to the head? Simmonds was finishing a check and McDonagh put two hands on his stick, aligned it parallel with the ice, and more or less tried to decapitate another player. Is that not intent to injure? That could have easily resulted in a severe neck injury.
The point of the matter is that the NHL made the right move by not suspending Simmonds. The Flyers had already lost him for the game, which was a big break for the Rangers, especially after losing their top defenseman.
If the league moved forward with suspending Simmonds, then it would have created a huge imbalance. Simmonds would have been suspended for attempting to injure another player, yet McDonagh would have gotten off the hook for something that could have resulted in a far worse injury (thankfully it didn’t).
Alain Vigneault has plenty of reason to be upset about the situation, but McDonagh has to bear responsibility for the situation as well.
Matt is a contributor for the Philadelphia Flyers at The Hockey Writers. He has previously covered the Flyers for GrandstandU. He enjoys playing hockey and making music in his spare time.