Tape2Tape: Kulikov Suspension Raises Age Old Question

Four games. That’s the length of the suspension handed down by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to Florida Panthers defenceman Dmitry Kulikov for his hit on Tyler Seguin. The hit, however, has landed Seguin on the team’s injured reserve with a multi-week stay.

Reports have the Dallas Stars forward missing anywhere between three to six weeks with a serious knee injury. Now, at the shortest end of this unwanted vacation, Seguin will miss a total of 10 games. If he’s out the full six weeks, he’ll be sitting out roughly 20 games at a critical point in the season for the Stars.

Tyler Seguin, Dmitry Kulikov, NHL, Hockey, Suspension, Florida Panthers
Dmitry Kulikov will return after four games while the Stars will be without Tyler Seguin for at least a month. (Marcusvfx/Wikipedia)

On top of that, Seguin leads the Stars with 59 points (29g-30a) in 55 games and ranks among the league’s top scorers. The injury not only hurts Seguin’s chance at individual achievements this season, but it hurts the Stars chances of a playoff birth.

The Stars Are Falling

Only six points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference and with two teams sitting between them and the final spot, the Dallas Stars will be facing an uphill battle without there star forward.

With Patrick Eaves and Valeri Nichushkin already out of the Dallas lineup, losing Seguin leaves another hole on an already depleted roster. The injury will force players like Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, and Cody Eakin to step up.

But what about he Panthers? In a similar spot – on the verge of a playoff birth – why is it that they will only lose their stud defenceman for four games? Let’s take a second to look at the situtation.

Dmitry Kulikov: Is Four Game Enough?

The Kulikov hit, and subsequently the Seguin injury, raises an important question. But it’s a question that has been asked far too many times before. How can the NHL’s Department of Player Safety justify their decisions regarding the lengths of player suspensions?

With such a serious injury – like that suffered by Seguin – how can a four-game suspension suffice?

For years, many people have questioned the number of games forfeited by those punished by the law of the National Hockey League. This case is really no different. Why shouldn’t Kulikov miss the same amount of time as the player he hit?

Arguments against this will say that every player is different. While Seguin might be out for four weeks, someone else might miss seven or eight weeks. But isn’t that the risk you take when you lower your body enough to take out a players knees?

Isn’t that what you want as the Department of Player Safety – to have players worried about the amount of time they could miss for reckless on-ice actions? After all, the Panthers are fighting for a playoff spot too. Why should they get one of their big defensemen back while the Stars trudge on without their star forward?

Raising the Age Old Question

As it stands now, heading into Tuesday night, the Panthers are four points out of the final spot in the Eastern Conference. The Stars – as I mentioned – are just six points back in the West. Dallas has 26 games left and could potentially be without their top offensive threat for more than three quarters of them.

On the other hand, the Panthers will be without one of their big defensemen for four games. That’s right, you’ve heard it already, four games.

I’m not here to discuss whether or not the hit was legal or too low or even whether there should have been a suspension. But take a second to look at where these two teams are with just over 20 games left.

How is it right for one team to lose a star for – basically – the rest of the season, while another one sits for a few games and returns to help his team make the playoffs? But this is the discussion that’s been around for years with still no definitive guidelines surrounding NHL suspensions.

Suspending Kulikov – and others in his situation – for the length of time that injured players are out could potentially influence the direction of the game. While it would still take a lot of man hours to pan out the specifics, here’s how it could help the game of hockey.

This option could reduce the number of reckless plays. While these illegal checks are a question of player-to-player respect – a topic for another day – forcing players to miss significant time based on the injuries suffered could deter them from committing these acts in the first place.

Sure, you’ll always have particular players who don’t mind being the centre of attention when it comes to questionable hits, but the numbers of suspensions would undoubtedly be reduced.

The NHL has already taken a step into cleaning up the classiness of the game by fining players who embellish and dive. Now, it’s time to take that one step further. Get rid of those guys that don’t have enough respect for their fellow players to land a clean hit. Force them to second guess every play they make.

The end of the season will show just how influential the Kulikov-Seguin hit will be for both the Panthers and the Stars. And while one can only imagine the results of a change in suspension format at this point, it’s time to try something to clean up the game we all love.

Thoughts and Shots

1. So you think you play hockey? How about these folks at Sherwood Park who competed in the longest game of hockey ever. (CBC)

2. Buff giving Kane the finger went viral, but there’s much more behind the interesting photo. (Puck Daddy)

3. You think you have a good hockey story? This lady explains just why Nassua Coliseum is important to her and her son’s existence. (Sportsnet)

4. Bald jokes are at an all-time high when it comes to Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Getzlaf. But diving is no laughing matter. (Edmonton Sun)

5. The Sharks are looking for bites on goaltender Antti Niemi as the trade deadline approaches. (Fear the Fin)

Tape2Tape, Amy MacKenzie, The Hockey Writers, THW, NHL
Tape2Tape – a weekly column – brought to you by The Hockey Writers. (Logo by Amy MacKenzie)

Have some thoughts about this week’s column, let me know at @Tape2TapeTHW or @AndrewGForbes on Twitter.

Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on one major story each week. Agree or disagree, writer – Andrew Forbes – would love to hear what you have to say.