Edler Nonsensically Shanabanned for Two Games

Thomas Drance
March 22 2013 07:53PM

In a baffling decision, the NHL Department of Player Safety has decided to suspend Alex Edler two games for charging Mike Smith. The incident occured during Thursday night's game between the Canucks and the Coyotes, and a major penalty was assessed on the play. 

Here's the explanatory suspension video:

Read past the jump for more.

As it were, when we wrote about the incident last night we thought that the major penalty assessed against Edler by the on-ice officials was already unduly punitive. So needless to say, I think Shanahan got this one wrong. Let's revisit rule 42 as it pertains to goaltenders (this is the rule Shanahan cites in the video).

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.

So with that, here's the most damning phrase in Shanahan's judgement: "Rather than attempt to minimize or avoid contact, Edler takes a direct route through Smith making contact with his head." I agree completely with that reasoning, and think it's pretty clear that Edler needed to do more to avoid Smith. That said, as Harrison Mooney convincingly argued today, it's not as if Alex Edler had a lot of time to react.

Moreover, in a post over at The Backhand Shelf on Friday morning titled "Mike Smith, dude, seriously: get out of the way" Justin Bourne points out that Mike Smith tends to use his MC Hammer "can't touch this" status as a goaltender as a tactic. By coming out of the net unpredictably, Smith is able to neuter the effectiveness of the opposition's forecheck. "When the puck goes behind the net and the opposing team is going to be first on it," writes Bourne, "Smith likes to leave his net to play the puck away from them, but then he likes to take away any conceivable lane for the forechecker to skate through to avoid plowing him."

My read on this is that's pretty much exactly what happened on this play. This wasn't a dump in, the Canucks were set up in the Coyotes zone on the power-play when Mike Smith left his net. Alex Edler needed to do more to avoid contact with Smith, sure, but he also didn't have a lot of time to react one way or another. By the letter of rule 42 Edler was in the wrong here, but it's not like Smith's behavior in this incident falls within Alex Edler's reasonable expectations for a goaltender.

Shanahan emphasized that the Office of Player Safety (an increasingly Orwellian name, eh?) bought that "Edler [had] no malicious intent on this play," but because "he does not make any effort to minimize or avoid contact," he gets a couple of games even as a first time offender. The reasoning is sensible enough - even though I still can't stomach the nonsense precedent of suspending to the injury - but the failure to take into account the particulars of this play, like, Mike Smith leaving his net very spontaneously, or how this wasn't a dump in and the Canucks were set up in the offensive end - makes this a very soft suspension in my view. 

Tough day for Shanahan, huh?

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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 DCR
March 22 2013, 08:08PM
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I think the biggest issue with this and the other supplemental discipline decisions over the last few days is that they've totally undercut any sense of legitimacy on the part of the Department of Player Safety.

At this point, there is practically no one in hockey fandom, the blogosphere, or even the mainstream media who appears to have any faith that the majority (or even a significant minority) of the NHL's supplemental discipline decisions are based on anything resembling fairness or consistency. People may throw around accusations of incompetence, institutional corruption, or simple pandering to special interest groups but what really matters is that no one has any real faith in the integrity of the process.

It's become a joke.

That's a real problem because it's hard to respect a joke.

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#2 Paul
March 23 2013, 05:26PM
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If you watch the play Edler tries to go between Smith and the boards, Smith can clearly see that edler is going behind the net for the puck but decides that he can get there first. What was Edler to do on that play? Let Smith play the puck and not go after it, then return to the bench and get an earful from his coach? He made the right play and should not have received a penalty nevermind a suspension. Lucic' his on Miller was way worse and received no penalty or suspension. These suspensions are inconsistent at best and have become more of a joke then anything. Please let me know your comments :)

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#3 Jesse
March 22 2013, 08:02PM
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Maybe Edler should've jumped a bit higher and aimed for Smith's head like Rick Nash.

Or just play for a team that Shanahan played for.

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#4 mph
March 22 2013, 08:19PM
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If you look at the video again, I think from the 2nd view, Edler does NOT make contact with Smith's head. He contacts Smith's chest and Smith snaps his head back.

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#5 DCR
March 22 2013, 08:20PM
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mph wrote:

If you look at the video again, I think from the 2nd view, Edler does NOT make contact with Smith's head. He contacts Smith's chest and Smith snaps his head back.

But do you really think the evidence matters?

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#6 mph
March 22 2013, 08:24PM
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Yeah, that's the sad thing =/

Btw it was the 3rd view if anyone is looking for it...

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#7 Lemming
March 22 2013, 08:34PM
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@DCR

Well said. I can't think of a better word for this than a joke. Early April Fools everyone!...is what I'd like to hear.

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#8 Matt
March 22 2013, 09:09PM
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I just keep playing the Lucic/Miller hit and this back to back and scratching my head.

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#9 yugret
March 22 2013, 10:58PM
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Hopefully the NHL's desire to protect goaltenders will extend to Vancouver's goalies in the playohahahahahahahahahahahahaha

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#10 Lemming
March 22 2013, 11:26PM
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@yugret

So many jokes today, when did this blog become a comedy site?

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#11 2gansta2care
March 22 2013, 11:37PM
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shanabanned, lol

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#12 JI123
March 23 2013, 09:28AM
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incredible, that a blindside, late hit on a defenseless player doesn't get punished yet this does. Shanahan is the one who should be SHANABANNED!

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#13 Lemming
March 23 2013, 09:37AM
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I'd say he should be Shanasacked, but most of the big wigs in the NHL front office should be IMHO

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#14 Ash
March 23 2013, 12:37PM
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Time for the NHL to take a page from minor hockey. Too many of these suspensions are continent on an injury or the long term effects which makes the infractions unpredictable. Which played knows when going in for a questionable hit what the outcome will be. Players play this, turn backs, fall, had snaps, it's human nature. So play it like minor hockey, eliminate the punishment for results. Hit from behind, hit to the head, charging a goalie in the trapezoid, whatever make it 2 games injury or not. 2nd offence, 3 games, etc. Set The ground rules and above all be consistent. Take some of the arbitrary part out of it and the players will change their behavior. As it is I bet no two players could tell you what they can and can't do and not get a suspension.

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#15 Patrick Johnston
March 23 2013, 12:46PM
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I was pretty vocal about the original call on Thursday; now that I've settled down, my thoughts...

I'm still unclear what Edler is really supposed to do - is he not to pursue the puck? That's how he got in the position he was in. It's unbelievable fast how quickly everything happened. Given that he was looking at the puck and then realized very late that Smith was there, I don't blame him for squaring up. He's already on the wall, going full tilt. Dodging to Smith's left would be insanely difficult.

Nonetheless, we must be responsible for actions. Edler hit a goalie. The rules say you can't. I may not agree with the rationale - it puts goalies on too high a pedestal - but it exists, and we all know about it.

Now, a side question- what is it about goalies being given free reign the handle the puck that we cherish so much? In a league that craves offence, why are goalies accorded special defensive status?

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#16 JI123
March 23 2013, 03:05PM
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lucic hit a goalie... what happened there? i think the focus on the complaints aren't necessarily on this specific call, but the inconsistency of Shanabanning.

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#17 JCDavies
March 23 2013, 03:23PM
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@Patrick Johnston

I agree.

Position players have a responsibility to try to avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations but we don't expect goalies to do the same?. If players are expected to not turn their back towards an oncoming hitter, why can't we expect goalies to make some effort to avoid incoming collisions?

The NHL has eliminated offensive picks but they allow goalies to use picks that make it difficult for opposing teams to create offense. I'm all for protecting goalies but there is something wrong with how the league has gone about doing it.

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#18 Chris E
March 27 2013, 02:41AM
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Yes, I don't think there should have even been a penalty, forget a suspension...and I'm a goalie!

It used to drive me nuts watching Turco play the puck against the Canucks in that playoff series. He would use his status as 'untouchable' to help him play the puck. A Canuck player would swoop in on him and curl away. If you can't hit him, at least go in there and hack his stick a bit.

Smith went behind the net, fumbled playing the puck, and when he saw he was going to lose the puck battle he made sure to take out Edler with him.

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