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Quick Take: Why Length of Injury Suspensions Are a Bad Idea April 22, 2014

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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I was watching the Habs-Bolts tilt on NHL Network tonight, and at the second intermission, the subject of erstwhile Capitals rental Matt Cooke’s recent kneeing foul came up.

As far as Cooke goes, throw the book at him.  He knows better.  Without looking, I’d guess his NHL rap sheet is longer than his bio in Minnesota’s media guide.  But that’s not my main topic here.

The question is whether players who get suspended for injuring other players should sit for as long as the injured player is on the shelf.  Let me give you a scenario or two to show you why I don’t think that’s a smart idea.

Assume the Capitals are up against, I don’t know, Philadelphia.  Now assume that the game gets chippy.  Let’s suppose that, in this theoretical chippy Caps-Flyers tilt, Alex Ovechkin goes in hard on the forecheck against a recent call-up.  Let’s make it Brandon Manning for discussion’s sake:  he had 31 points and 231 PIMs, and was -24 defensively, in his most recent season with the Phantoms.  He’s also listed as 2 inches shorter, and 35 pounds lighter, than Ovechkin.

So let’s assume Ovechkin goes in to a theoretical forecheck against Manning, and let’s assume for discussion that the play goes horribly wrong.  Manning suffers a horrible injury and, per the Flyers, won’t be back for the rest of the season.  Under a length-of-injury suspension, that would be the end of the season for Alex Ovechkin.

But look at it from the other side.  If you’re Philadelphia, and you know you can end Alex Ovechkin’s season by keeping a minor leaguer on the shelf…hmmmmmm, tempting, yes?

Or, switch colors and look at it the other way.  Say it’s Sidney Crosby inadvertently knocking Connor Carrick into the middle of next month, the regular season is winding down, and the Capitals are locked into a first-round match-up with Pittsburgh..  If you were the Capitals, would you be in a rush to get Carrick back into service, knowing that you could keep your archenemy out of the playoffs while “innocently” insisting that you want to make sure Carrick was 100% before you said he was ready to go?

No, neither the Capitals nor the Flyers would resort to that kind of chicanery.  But that’s the can of worms you could be opening if the rule for injury-inducing fouls were a length-of-injury suspension.

It’s a noble idea at first:  after all, who wouldn’t want justice for their favorite player/teammate/employee?  But the unintended consequences it might set off could adversely affect the integrity of the game on the ice.

By all means, discipline unsafe play; absolutely, throw the book at serial cereal-heads.  But discipline needs to be set neutrally by the League, without giving other clubs a backdoor way of keeping other clubs’ players out of the game.–CS

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