Edler Nonsensically Shanabanned for Two Games

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?

  • DCR

    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.

  • yugret

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • JCDavies

      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.

  • JI123

    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.

  • JCDavies

    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 🙂

  • Chris E

    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.