Today the NHL Player Safety Department banned Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for 4 games for his hit on Stars center Tyler Seguin. Kulikov was invited to appear in person for the hearing. Usually that means a 5+ game suspension, but it is not a requirement. To determine the length of the suspension the NHL PSD used the following 3 criteria points:
- Was there a rules violation
- Was there an injury
- Does the player have prior fine or suspension history
The keys here are Seguin’s injury and Kulikov’s prior history. Missing 3-6 weeks on the surface doesn’t sound catastrophic. However, given the Stars current place in the standings (5 pts out of a wild card spot) it is a huge deal.
Protecting Star Players
This brings a new issue to light. Should the NHL consider longer suspensions when the infraction is against a star player? Currently, there is no distinction about the type of injured player. If it was Jordie Benn or Travis Moen who went on IR for up to 6 weeks would this even be a story?
Perhaps the NHL should look at taking a page from the NFL in how they protect NFL quarterbacks. THW posed this question to former NHL Stars defenseman Brad Lukowich and he replied,”No, penalize the rule and play no matter who it is and have higher stakes for worse and repeat offenders.”
Kulikov’s Fine And Suspension History
Kulikov, 24 years old, 6’1 205lbs, has no previous fine or suspension history in 6 NHL seasons. Kulikov is also not considered an overly physical player. In 6 NHL seasons, Kulikov has never had more than 66 pims. It’s clear from the video that Kulikov miss-timed the hit as his hip didn’t connect with Seguin. If he did connect with his hip it may have actually been a clean hit above the knee. The NHL is an incredibly fast game and players miss on hits just as they do with passes or shots on goal. Unless there is some history between the two of them, I find it hard to believe Kulikov was intentionally trying to injury Seguin. It’s just not his game.
Although it probably won’t be a popular opinion, I think given all the facts the NHL Player Safety Department got this one pretty close to right. A lengthier suspension would be setting a precedent, and as unfortunate as it is for the Stars, it wouldn’t be right to disregard the existing rules and process. That said, it will be interesting to see what happens when the Stars take on the Panthers again on March 5th at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
Love to hear your comments on this one.