Jim Neveau, Blackhawks Correspondent
Friday night featured an intense battle between two Original Six franchises at the United Center in Chicago. The Blackhawks battled the Canadiens in a physical battle that was decided late in the third period, with the Hawks prevailing 3-2 on Patrick Sharp’s goal in the third period.
The big story of the game, however, was the play involving Hawks LW Andrew Ladd and Canadiens F Matt D’Agostini.
Less than four minutes into the game, D’Agostini was skating back toward a play when Ladd slammed into him near the blue line. Ladd was assessed a major penalty for elbowing, as well as a game misconduct, which left the Hawks with only 10 true forwards, a number that doesn’t inspire confidence for an already short-handed team.
As for D’Agostini, he did not return to the game after the hit, and looked extremely shaken up afterwards.
Needless to say, the blogosphere exploded after the hit had taken place. With hits from Brad Richards, Tuomo Ruutu, and others in recent days dominating the NHL headlines, and with ex-players like Keith Primeau calling for a “head-hit” ban, the Ladd incident will serve to keep that fire stoked.
Blogs from Puck Daddy to Blackhawks Confidential have discussed the hit already, and surely more will follow. The big question, with the seeming epidemic of head-shots in early going of the NHL season, is this: will Andrew Ladd be suspended for his hit?
Im my opinion, Ladd needs to be suspended, but only for one game. Screen-caps used by various websites have shown that his shoulder, not his elbow, landed the brutal blow to D’Agostini’s head, and a lot of folks are using this argument to say that Ladd should receive no further punishment for his hit.
I view the situation a little bit differently. Sure, Ladd didn’t lead out with his elbow on the play, contrary to the penalty that he received, but what he did is something that I feel lessens the integrity of the game: he deliberately aimed the blow at his opponent’s head, which isn’t kosher in an era that scientists are revealling even more compelling evidence that concussions never truly heal.
In Blackhawks Confidential’s coverage of the hit, author Mike Kiley discussed how the Hawks will likely argue that since Vancouver D Willie Mitchell wasn’t suspended for his hit on Jonathan Toews, then Ladd shouldn’t be suspended either.
This is a ludicrous comparison, considering that there was absolutely no evidence that Mitchell deliberately hit Toews in the head. If anything, he may have just been looking for a shoulder-to-shoulder blow, and he was definitely skating toward center ice, not deliberately at his opponent that he intended to hit.
Ladd, on the other hand, skated quite a ways to deliver his blow to D’Agostini, which caused him to have enough momentum to send his victim sprawling in a giant heap to the ice.
When the length of the head start is taken into account, it seems to me that Ladd was deliberately head-hunting, and that should be adequate reason to suspend him for at least one game.
The issue, of course, is that the NHL may decide that they need to firmly send a message against these kind of head-hits. If you watch videos online of the incidents in question, it certainly seems like a huge melee results afterward, whether or not the hit is clean. After the Mitchell, Toews, and Ladd hits, the two teams engaged in the kind of fight you would see in a movie like Slap Shot, or at least Ready to Rumble.
With the violence of these post-hit fights, Colin Campbell may decide that Ladd is going to be the lucky winner of the “send-a-message” contest, and suspend him for four or five games. Everyone will cry foul, and NHL analysts and Internet pundits will rise up and decry the NHL for over-reacting to the hit.
With any sort of luck, this will not happen, but in the end, all that matters is that Ladd should at least be punished for his head-hunting ways. One game is the appropriate length, but if the NHL decides that it needs to send a message, then they will be making a big mistake.Wait until a guy blatantly leads with an elbow, but don’t send a message at an inappropriate time.
James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site’s NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.