An Elbow for An Elbow Will Leave the Whole World Concussed

In the aftermath of Duncan Keith and Daniel Sedin’s dueling elbows, Sedin is flying back to Vancouver for further evaluation (it’s suspected that he’s concussed) while Duncan Keith is readying his preposterous "I didn’t even feel the first headshot" defense for his phone hearing with Shanahan.

After Keith’s hit the game devolved into an ugly one, as the Canucks gooned it up and targetted Keith (as well as netminder Corey Crawford) with a series of retributive plays. The official, Dan O’Halloran, blew the call on Sedin’s headshot of Duncan Keith, and then blew the call on Keith’s hit on Daniel (how that wasn’t a major penalty, I’ll never understand). The result was that he completely lost control of the game for about thirty minutes of game-time, and it wasn’t until the pace of the game normalized during a high-flying third period that one remembered how entertaining games between the Blackhawks and Canucks can be, when they’re not marred by petty thuggery on both sides.

Read past the jump for more on the aftermath of the two hits.

I’ve watched Duncan Keith play fifty-plus games in his NHL career, and while I’ve seen him run around on occasion, I would never have put him in the "dirty player" category. I still probably wouldn’t, even though you’ll be hard-pressed to dirtier play this season than his blatant elbow to Daniel’s cranium. 

The context of Daniel’s previous hit on Keith is important, so let’s review the video (even though I’m sure you’ve all seen it several times):

I hate that hit. Daniel gets his elbow up, Keith’s head is the primary point of contact (Daniel’s shoulder is what makes contact, however, not his elbow) and it comes from the blindside. It’s a textbook violation of rule 48, and the referees blew this one in a big way when they let it go uncalled.

From my perspective, the context of Daniel’s previous dirty hit makes Keith’s retaliatory hit (seriously, if you buy that Keith didn’t even notice this hit, you’re a dummy) a bit more understandable on an emotional level. This is a dangerous play by Daniel, it went unnoticed by the officials and Duncan Keith wanted to get his.

Unfortunately, he decided to "get his" in an altogether over the top fashion, with one of the dirtiest hits of the season:

It’s just brutal.

There’s two big differences between the two plays, namely that Keith had the puck immediately prior to Daniel’s hit, and that the level of cranial targeting by Keith is of a conspicuously higher magnitude. Not that it matters particularly, both plays were illegal, and both were in my view blatant. I’ve long thought that one of the limits of rule 48 is that it still places the onus on the hitee to protect themselves. I’d like to see the rule altered slightly so that, like with a high-stick, the onus is on the hitter to avoid making primary contact with the head.

That’s not always easy, players sometimes fall right before a player delivers a check for example (similar to what we saw when Foligno wiped out Hodgson in early December) and it seems silly in those instances to punish the hitter for making unintentional contact with the head when that contact was accidental. It is silly, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off in my view – I’ll take several whacky penalties every couple of games in exchange for the NHL adopting a more stringent standard in order to guard against concussions.

Duncan Keith is having a hearing over the phone, so he can be suspended for a maximum of five games. Keith is not a repeat offender, and has a sterling reputation around the league so I’ll expect him to get 2-4 games. It’s a lenient sentence considering how blatant and injurious his head-shot was, but it’s understandable. Of course, I couldn’t care less, I just hope Daniel is okay.

When Shanahan’s suspension explanation video hits the web, what I’m going to be curious to see is how he interprets the "context" from Daniel’s previous hit on Keith earlier in the contest. Greg Wyshynski alluded to this earlier today over at Puck Daddy:

Again, the initial hit doesn’t exonerate Keith, but it’s also going to be part of the context for a suspension. The Department of Player Safety can still be a very old school place; and would it surprise you at all if they viewed a retaliatory elbow differently than a non-instigated one? Because while Sedin’s hit wasn’t suspendable, it damn sure wasn’t innocent either.

So will Daniel’s previous hit result in a lessened punishment for Keith, or will it be interpreted as suggestive proof of intent, and result in a stiffer sentence? In my view, it should be the latter – especially if we believe Henrik Sedin about how Keith threatened Daniel prior to his blatant elbow. If you think that Duncan Keith intentionally targeted Daniel’s hit in retribution for an earlier hit and as a result concussed last season’s Art Ross winner – you have to throw the book at him, right? If Shanahan, however, decides that Keith was justified in unilaterally doling out retribution for a bad hit, that’s a whole other can of worms, and a slippery slope I’d hate to see the NHL’s office of player safety go down.

After all, I’m a Canucks fan. I’ve seen what can happen when players take it upon themselves to settle the score for a borderline hit, and it’s not just unsightly, it’s dangerous.

  • I can see that Daniel’s hit contacted Keith in the head, but how is it in any way an elbow? You can see in the video that Daniel’s elbow is tucked in and it’s his shoulder that makes contact with Keith’s head. His elbow ends up in Keith’s chest.

    In this video…d=60&id=123678
    the NHL gives examples of legal hits to the head (where the elbows are clearly down, even though there is contact with the head). Doesn’t Daniel’s hit falls under the same parameter?

  • This is a tremendous opportunity for the NHL. This is the first time I can remember in the Shanahan Era where this idea of “players policing themselves” is on display. This is as obvious an action of retaliation as the NHL will get. So its a perfect chance for the NHL to say come down hard on the retaliatory action, and make clear, in the explanation to the video, that it is NOT the players’ role to police the game.

    • Danny Gray

      I don’t even know why the NHL even takes a player’s defense into consideration for a few reasons. 1. They’re obviously going to lie to receive a less harsh punishment. 2. People in general are terrible at explaining their actions, especially in situations where “things happen really fast”.

  • Hi Thomas,
    I agree with you for the most part – I don’t like Daniel’s hit much either. I just don’t see how he “gets his elbow up” as you describe. His elbow stays tucked in against his side throughout the hit. He might be getting his shoulder up – but not his elbow

  • Mantastic

    The reason why keith only got 2mins was because Daniel returned to the bench and talked to ref and coaching staff saying he was fine. He also played the next shift, however he was not fine and left the game after play resumed. you can’t changed the penalty half way thru it because a player was more hurt than previously reviewed. 5min majors only happen then the other player is injuried and does not return to play the next shift, you can’t fault the refs on that.

  • Mantastic

    Anybody else think Keith’s “threats” might have been an offer to fight and put the thing behind him, that was either not understood, or not taken? If so, is the retaliation viewed differently?

    I know the Sedins aren’t fighters, but here’s a classic instance of the NHL’s “fight as safety valve” argument. If it was another player the ‘Hawks would have sent Bollig to handle it, but they can’t send him out after Daniel, so Keith may have decided to go get it done himself.

    • Danny Gray

      Interesting perspective. Although Keith refused to fight anyone after he did what he did; and what he did was worse. I didn’t see Bieksa throw a flying elbow in response, and if he did there would be not a single person out there defending him.

  • Danny Gray

    Look, I fully believe that Keith should be suspended for the max 5 games, but you also have to admit (as you do) that Daniel’s hit is almost as egregious. Therefore, if Keith gets suspended 5 games, Daniel needs to get suspended at least a game, if not 2 for the original hit. To me, thats the fair resolution to this (although it may not matter because of Sedin’s concussion). I just hope that Shanahan doesn’t say, well I would suspend Keith 5 and Daniel 2, but I’m not going to suspend Daniel so I’ll just suspend Keith 3 and call it even.

  • Danny Gray

    Additionally, I thought that perhaps Burrows might be reprimanded for kneeing Keith in the groin when they were both down during that ridiculous skirmish in the second.

  • Danny Gray

    I don’t think Daniel’s hit was almost as egregious…not by a long shot. Daniel’s hit was a bad one, but it wasn’t a premeditated attack on the player’s head. Duncan Keith’s was. He didn’t even try to hide it (i.e., wait until the puck wasn’t around, and the refs were focused somewhere else).

    @ Mantastic: Thanks for the explanation. But are you certain that the injury factor is always the deciding one between major and minor? If so, that’s too bad. The refs should be able to use more discretion, assuming they see it.

  • Mantastic


    I agree that Sedin’s hit was not pre-meditated but if you think he didn’t know what he was doing when he came up high with his shoulder then you are sorely mistaken.

    Everybody who has played the game and has been in a situation like that knows you don’t have to follow through with your shoulder up into a guys head. There is no doubt in my mind that he knew what he was doing, he took advantage of Keith watching his own pass. Sedin could have rubbed him out, could have led more with the hip, he even could have peeled off but instead he drives his shoulder up into Keith’s head.

    Sedin has to be suspended too, if he’s not it just reinforces the double standard of ‘the talent’ getting off easy.

  • Mantastic

    I’m not saying Keith should’nt get a suspention. he should…
    but after watching Vancouver in last years play-offs… you live by the sword….

    Vancouver plays over the line dirty all the time.

    that said, I hope Danial is OK. I would rather see them loose again with all hands on deck.

  • Mantastic

    Ref’s lost control of game. Sedin should have been thrown out after hitting Keith. Bieksa needs to stop fighting non-fighters, he’s big enough, he could have dropped the gloves with Chara earlier this year and chose to ignore him. Chicago is well aware of concussions, I don’t think a marshmallow landed on Toews head for his concussion, just ask Thornton and Clowe when they were throwing punches at his head. I didn’t hear Chicago go public on this scenario.

  • Mantastic

    If you front seat thinking experts who are making the all the comments that Keith had the right to a retaliation on Daniel, for Danie’s earlier hit. Open your peepers a see how many times this kind of hit that Daniel made happens in most games without a penalty called but deliberate head hunting is a crime and you have to pay the Piper if you are going to insist on doing it.Keith should be suspended for 10 games and fined $50,000 to show others that the nhl will not tolorate this kind of action.