Jets’ Lowry Rightfully Suspended

The NHL Department of Player Safety has suspended Winnipeg Jets’ centre Adam Lowry two games for high sticking the Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg. Their decision is right on the money.

Lowry’s High Stick Looked Deliberate

Some, such as Mike McIntyre, described Lowry’s third-period infraction as “errant.” Really, though, it’s hard to see it in any way other than deliberate. Lowry was not off-balance or out of control of his stick when it made contact with Forsberg’s face.

Rather, he swung it all the way around his body to chop Forsberg right in the mug, seemingly as a response to getting checked along the boards in what was a physical and hard-fought game with a playoff-like atmosphere. It was a rare selfish play from someone who’s shown himself to be a true team player.

Jets center Adam Lowry
Lowry was suspended for two games, and boy, does he deserve it. He’s lucky it the discipline wasn’t more severe. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

“This is not a situation where a player simply loses control of his stick or one where an off-balance player flails to try and steady himself,” the NHL DoPS video states. “This is a reckless stick swing that strikes an opponent at a dangerous height. No matter where he intends the blow to land, Lowry must be in control and responsible for his stick.

The DoPS — despite being roundly criticized for perceived inconsistencies in the way they dole out discipline — has set a precedent by issuing suspensions for serious high sticking infractions this season. In fact, the Predators’ Ryan Johansen was suspended two games in January for high sticking Mark Scheifele. Last month, Evgeni Malkin was banished for one game for taking a swing at Michael Raffl, even though Malkin’s stick barely brushed Raffl’s helmet.

Lowry’s high stick on Forsberg was just as dangerous and egregious, if not more so, than those two plays. If he was a repeat offender, it likely would have cost him more than two games.

Lindholm Likely to Get First Opportunity

Par Lindholm will likely play his first games as a member of the Jets as a result of Lowry’s suspension. The Jets have a few options of how to deploy he and others: they could move Andrew Copp up to third-line centre, keep Bryan Little as that line’s right winger and slot Lindholm — who won 50.9 per cent of his faceoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the Jets acquired him for Nic Petan at the trade deadline —  in as the fourth-line centre.

Par Lindholm Maple Leafs
Par Lindholm, who the Jets acquired from the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline, will likely see his first Jets’ game action as a result of Lowry’s suspension. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

They could also move Little back to the middle and get Lindholm, or someone else, to play their off-wing. That would be a decision borne out of necessity as Lindholm’s insertion would mean eight out of the Jets’ 12 forwards would be left-handed. Exactly what the Jets will do will be seen closer to Sunday evening’s matchup against Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and the all-in Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jets In Tough Without Lowry

The suspension comes at a bad time for the Jets, to whom Lowry is very valuable because of his grit, tenacity and adeptness in the dot. The ferocious, 6-foot-5 forward has eight goals and nine assists for 17 points, 185 hits and is winning a career-high 57.5 per cent of his faceoffs in 62 games this season.

The Jets’ 5-3 win over the Predators on Friday night at Bell MTS Place, the game in which Lowry’s infraction took place, was their most complete effort in a long while; the first time they’ve truly played up to their potential after nearly a month of struggles and frustration.

The strong performance was due to their ability to earnestly roll four dangerous lines. Thanks to the deadline-day addition of sturdy centre Kevin Hayes, they were able to move Little to the wing and keep every forward to under 20 minutes, which kept the group, as a whole, fresh and focused.

Winnipeg Jets Kevin Hayes
The addition of Kevin Hayes allowed Bryan Little to move to the wing and the Jets to roll four lines, keeping everyone fresh. However, Lowry’s suspension likely means Little will have to move back to centre and less action for the fourth line. (Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

However, the Jets are still a fragile team, and now they’ll have to break up the lines that got them just their fourth win in their past 11 games. That wouldn’t be so bad until you look at the games in which they’ll be without Lowry: after their matchup against the Blue Jackets, they head to Florida for a Tuesday-night clash with the league-best Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Jets already have enough adversity given the injuries to Dustin Byfuglien, Josh Morrissey and Joe Morrow, plus their upcoming schedule, which sees them face a number of strong opponents in playoff positions. They don’t need, nor can they afford, to have their players inflict more hardships as Lowry did with undisciplined and unintelligent play.