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?