Alex Edler Assessed Major Penalty for Charging Mike Smith

Thomas Drance
March 21 2013 10:30PM

Late in the second period of Thursday night's Canucks game in Glendale, Arizona the Canucks were on the power-play when an unsuspecting Mike Smith left his net to play the puck in the trapezoid. What happened next will shock you! In fact there's lots of shocking things about this play.

First off, it's a bit of an uncharacteristic shot from Alex Edler - who generally plays more like a Lady Byng candidate than a thug. Secondly, it's uncharacteristic of Mike Smith to hop back up after an opposition skaters makes contact with him, as opposed to doing his best Ryan Kelser impression and rolling around on the ice. Thirdly, Alex Edler was assessed a major for charging on the play, which I found kind of surprising.

Read past the jump.

Here's what the NHL rulebook has to say about "charging" as it applies to goaltenders:

A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

I don't buy that Alex Edler was just trying to block the puck in anticipation of Mike Smith playing it along the boards. I also think it's pretty hard to argue that Edler "made a reasonable effort to avoid" hitting Mike Smith. In fact, he appears to me to pick up a bit of speed leading into the hit.

That said, the NHL rule book, which allows the referee some discretion as to whether or not they assess a player a major or minor penalty for charging, stipulates that a charging penalty should only be a major if the "degree of violence" on the check warrants it. I don't particularly think Edler's check on smith was violent enough to pass that threshold, frankly.

Ultimately Alex Edler needs to do better to avoid contact with Mike Smith in this case, especially when his team is on the power-play. The penalty was a costly one for the Canucks too as the Coyotes later evened the game up with a power-play goal while Edler was still in the penalty box. While Edler brought this one on himself by being a bit careless, I can't shake the feeling that a major penalty for this hit was a bit of a soft call.

Update: Mike Smith left the game in the third period and has been replaced by former Canuck and current 'Yotes backup Jason Labarbera. According to Coyotes beat writer Sarah McLellan of AZCentral Mike Smith is being evaluated in the Coyotes dressing room.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 WolfKeeper
March 21 2013, 10:33PM
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Even as a Blackhawks fan, that call was bullsh!t.

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#3 Brent
March 21 2013, 11:25PM
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I am wondering if sleepy Edler released his inner viking because of the damage done to Daniel by Smith's glove (at least that is what it looked like on my crappy internet feed). It did seem uncharacteristic. But yes the 5 min penalty seemed out of order, which is possibly why they called Doan on a weak hooking penalty.

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#4 Warpstone
March 22 2013, 01:28AM
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More of gratuitously dumb play than a purely malicious one for Edler. The major is fair--any clear shot at a goalie should lean towards being more severe than not.

But I don't think this necessarily means Edler should be suspended. After all that's the point of a major, right?

What I don't really understand is how the medical staff explain Smith not leaving the ice on whichever hit did the most damage (Sedin collision looked worse).

I understand concussions are nebulous, but why does the goalie get to shrug off an immediate trip to the quiet room when a skater doesn't? I get that he's important to the team, but isn't that why you err on the side of caution?

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#5 Mantastic
March 22 2013, 10:18AM
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@Brent

Edler is Swedish not Norwegian. Vikings are from Norway not Sweden.

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#6 Matt
March 22 2013, 10:57AM
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If Edler gets suspended for this and Lucic doesn't get a retroactive suspension for his concussing hit on Ryan Miller last year, holy crap NHL.

Also Mantastic, Vikings hailed from the entire Scandinavian region, which includes both Sweden and Norway.

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#7 John Andress
March 22 2013, 11:08AM
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I thought at the time that the hit was more a case of Edler thinking that he could squeeze between Smith and the boards and misjudging and mistiming the move. I saw no malice or intent at the time and I have seen no replays that would make me change my mind. It was a penalty. Was it a major? That's up the the referees but I thought not. A suspension and fine. By the NHL's own precedents there shouldn't be a suspension but anybody who is looking for consistency and rational evaluation of facts from the NHL Disciplinary Committee probably still believes in fairies, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny? Oh, I do hope he brings me lots of chocolate eggs this year!

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#8 JA
March 22 2013, 11:39AM
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My initial thought was "ok, penalty, maybe a call from the league", but the more I watch the clip the more I can't think of where else Edler was supposed to go. If he cut left there's a big chance he would've hit Smith hard from behind (if Smith had decided to retreat back to his net). My impression is that goalies usually leave more of the ice back there for the skater to pass through, especially against the boards. As for Edler slowing down, I'm too terrible a skater to analyze the mechanics of that...

@Matt

You beat me to it. Finland is the one people usually mistakenly include on the list of Viking lands, but I've never heard of Sweden excluded.

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#9 Fred-65
March 22 2013, 12:47PM
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Where in the heck was Edler supposed to go, behind the net was completely blocked by Smith ( maybe less goalie equipment LOL would help ) And compared to Lucic incident it was a nothig event. But there again Lucic does play for Mr Jacobs team :-)

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#10 joel
March 22 2013, 02:35PM
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I guess we'll find out in a couple of hours, but I wonder if the "Raffi Torres on Seabrook" precedent will be a factor?

Remember in 2011 (Game 2?) when Seabrook was behind the Chicago net, went to play the puck, lost it in his feet and looked down, and then Torres demolished him? Aside from the difference between goalie and skater equipment, this looked pretty similar.

The NHL ruled that behind the net, due to the space limitations, is a high traffic area, and any player playing the puck back there should expect to be hit, and protect themselves accordingly.

Yes, Edler is supposed to avoid contact IF POSSIBLE, but if Smith goes back there to play the puck, and comes to a dead stop while he fumbles with a bouncing puck, where was Edler supposed to go? Like JA said above, if he cuts towards the front of the net, which is the only option available short of stopping abruptly, he would collide with Smith, assuming Smith did the logical thing and went back to his crease after playing the puck. But Smith didn't ring the puck around because it was bouncing, but by that point Edler was committed and a few feet away.

Looking at Edler's position, he doesn't hit Smith square on because he is hugging the boards as he comes in, which looks to me like he was originally trying to cut off that side for Smith to clear the puck, funnelling the puck to the other side where Hansen (?) was.

Anyways, all that is looking at with logical eyes. Or Canucks colored glasses.

The NHL will spin the wheel of justice later today.

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