September 22 2013 05:22PM
Word broke out of Toronto today that NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will conduct hearings with Canucks forwards Dale Weise and Zack Kassian for naughty conduct versus the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Weise was penalized two minutes for an illegal check to the head on Taylor Hall, while Kassian should probably have the book thrown at him—he wildly swung his stick around after missing a check and broke Sam Gagner's jaw.
The Kassian infraction is above, if you missed it. Worth noting, his hearing will be in-person. Per Article 18.9 of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement with its Players Association, an in-person hearing is required for a suspension of six or more games.
Note that the in-person hearing doesn't carry a guaranteed suspension. Thomas Drance doesn't think the precedent is there for a lengthy suspension, considering Shanahan's record in that category:
Huh, so Kassian might get dinged with a big, fat suspension. Very surprised by that.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 22, 2013
Longest high-sticking suspension in the Shanahan era: 2 games.— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 22, 2013
That suspension belongs to Pierre-Marc Bouchard. As the videos show, there aren't too many similarities between Bouchard's and Kassian's hits, other than they both involved a stick:
Matt Calvert, the victim, didn't miss a game, while Sam Gagner is out with a broken jaw. Shanahan often factors in injuries when making a decision on a suspension, so Kassian is going to need a slick tongue to get himself off. Regardless of intent, Kassian is responsible for his stick, although the NHL does have an odd provision in Rule 60.1, High-Sticking, that allows for contact with an opponent in the course of normal game flow:
However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off. A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly.
I don't think there's a case to be made that Kassian's stick would be considered a "normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion". Kassian has no NHL disciplinary record, but he has been suspended by the American Hockey League, the International Ice Hockey Federation, and the Ontario Hockey League in the past.
If you want to get the blood boiling, read Oilers blogger and Canuck fan-favourite Tyler Dellow on the Kassian incident, comparing it to the slash former Oiler Marty McSorley delivered to Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear once upon a time:
Unlike Gryba and Torres, Kassian has no defence that he was trying to perform a legal act and botched it. He was swinging his stick dangerously. Taylor Hall was quoted as saying “When your stick is flailing around like that, it’s your fault” but with all due respect to Hall, that wasn’t a stick flailing incident. It was a stick swinging incident. A stick flailing incident is where you don’t have control of your stick and you accidentally catch a guy, like if you’re trying to lift a stick and miss. Legal plays gone wrong. You don’t tend to hear about broken jaws or bones after those.
This was a stick swinging incident. That’s an important distinction. Kassian committed an illegal play in a reckless fashion and broke Gagner’s jaw. The NHL should have absolutely zero tolerance for that. If I ran the league, that’s the sort of stuff that would draw the huge suspensions. This is the sort of stuff that you can get out of the game by absolutely crucifying people who transgress, unlike with legal plays gone wrong.
I can see an argument for a long suspension, and I can see an argument for a short one. It may all be worth it—if the Oilers heed the advice of Journal columnist John MacKinnon and run with an extra heavyweight in their forward corps. Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish both appear to have a little bit more sense than that. There may be a bit of retribution against Kassian when he gets his first game against the Oilers this season, but probably little beyond that.
As for Dale Weise, who really cares how long he's out for?