During Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, Nyquist speared Jared Spurgeon in the face, retaliating for a cross-check Spurgeon gave Nyquist moments earlier.
Here is the video:
It’s a brutal spear, and the intent clearly was there. Although, according to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety explanation video, Nyquist was attempting to swing his stick around Spurgeon so he could deliver a cross-check of his own.
Regardless, the DOPS deemed Nyquist’s hit was an intent to injure and “easily could have resulted in a career-threatening injury.”
Punishment Doesn’t Fit Crime
Nyquist definitely deserved a suspension, but I think he got off lighter than he should have. The DOPS said his actions could have resulted in a career-threatening injury to Spurgeon, but a career-threatening injury only warrants a six-game suspension?
Although knowing the department’s history of suspensions, or lack thereof, I’m not at all surprised it erred on the side of leniency. During the last week of January, the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand had two separate dirty plays that didn’t result in him being suspended for even one game.
First, Marchand executed a “dangerous trip” on the Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall, which resulted in a $10,000 fine.
Just five days later, Marchand again was involved in another dangerous trip, this time on Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman.
Both of those were deliberate trips, although Marchand made the second one against Stralman look somewhat accidental. As a result of that, Marchand faced no discipline, despite having a history of dirty plays.
So, dangerous trips done by a player with a history of dirty plays don’t warrant suspensions, but a possible career-ending spear in the face by a player with no history does?
The DOPS has been laughably inconsistent with their rulings, and this Nyquist suspension is just another example. If it really thought Nyquist’s spear was career threatening, then why not suspend him longer and set an example?
I think Nyquist should have gotten at least 15 games. Granted, Spurgeon deserved a penalty on the cross-check, but Spurgeon’s hit wasn’t nearly as dangerous as Nyquist’s.
Marchand shouldn’t have even had the opportunity to trip Stralman, as he should have been suspended for at least 20 games for his trip on Kronwall.
Spearing a player in the face is just as dangerous as this kind of trip — which looks similar to a slew foot — so why does one act get a six-game suspension and the other gets a $10,000 fine?
Unfortunately, an injury plays a big factor into the DOPS’ decision. None of the players involved in the above incidents had to leave the game, so the punishments reflected that. But shouldn’t intent to injure be enough of a factor? Just because a player doesn’t injure another player doesn’t mean the intent wasn’t there.
Marchand and Nyquist showed intent to injure, and Nyquist is the only one with a suspension. The NHL claims to care about player safety, especially when it comes to hits to the head and concussions, but with inconsistent and lenient rulings, its actions speak louder than words.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.