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Neither Carson Soucy nor Nikita Zadorov deserve supplemental discipline by the NHL DoPS’ own standard…but that doesn’t mean they won’t get some

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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The Vancouver Canucks are no strangers to facing what sure seems like an excess amount of attention from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in the postseason.
Just ask Aaron Rome.
Which is why it doesn’t come as much surprise to wake up on Monday morning to news that the league was “reviewing” a late-game incident from Game 3 of the Round Two series between Vancouver and Edmonton.
We’re referring, of course, to the near-car-crash-level collision that befell one Connor McDavid in the dying seconds, the result of his coming between a Nikita Zadorov-shaped rock and a Carson Soucy-themed hard place with ill intent in the dying seconds.
Now, there’s little doubt that the contact itself was extremely violent. McDavid got absolutely hammered here, and not in the fun way. We don’t have to tell you this, you’ve almost certainly rewatched the incident a dozen times already this morning. Here’s one more:
But this is the NHL, where the DoPS is run by a guy who sells Violent Gentleman t-shirts on the side. Violence has never been the barometer for NHL suspensions. Violent intent, over and above the reasonably violent bounds of the game, is what gets players suspended these days.
And the Zadorov-Soucy-McDavid sandwiching just doesn’t come close to qualifying.
Now, as we say this, we’re all-but-expecting some punishment to be handed down — and sure enough, before we hit publish, the NHL has announced a $5000 fine for Zadorov and a hearing this afternoon for Soucy. There will be no shocked faces in Vancouver if either of Soucy or Zadorov face a fine, and only minimal shockage if either faces a minor suspension.
But should that come to pass, the reasoning will be that of who McDavid is, in comparison to who Zadorov and Soucy are – and perhaps who they play for.
Let’s go back to the incident itself.
The action starts up when Soucy engages two Oilers physically behind the net, just as time expires. First, he shoves Leon Draisaitl a little off-balance to ensure no last-second involvement in the play. Then, at the horn, McDavid lazily skates into Soucy, and Soucy reacts with a hard shove.
This shove served no real purpose, aside from perhaps the entertainment factor. But these are the NHL playoffs, where post-game scrums are a near-nightly occurrence. Skate into someone like McDavid did here at the buzzer, and you can all but expect at least a small shot. In the grand scheme of things, Soucy’s response – a short, brusque shove with gloves to chest – was quite restrained.
The escalation here is purely McDavid’s. As he’s teetering backward on his skates, McDavid rears back with his stick and swings hard, making what appears to be slight contact with Soucy’s right glove before making firm contact with his pants.
It’s a pretty vicious slash, and it doesn’t come all that far from landing on the wrist.
Now, we’re going to make what sounds like a homer statement here, but we’ll stand by it: if there’s anything approaching a suspendable action in this entire snafu, it’s this slash. A difference of a few inches, or even the stick glancing off Soucy’s glove and upward into his wrist instead of downward into his pants, and we’re talking about it very differently. Just look at that wind-up. NHL suspensions are supposed to be based as much on intent as outcome, and there’s no real mystery as to McDavid’s intent in this action, is there?
You can see McDavid, perhaps, realize he’s gone a bit too far in this moment. He puts his left hand up between he and Soucy, in what could be interpreted as a half-apologetic, half-protective gesture.
But that’s the last thing he gets to do of his own accord.
In what seems like a perfectly reasonable and standard response to a hearty slash, Soucy throws a crosscheck. It’s a stiff one, but it’s important to look at exactly how it is thrown.
There’s no excessive rear-back. Soucy’s hands come up, and they push forward. One can look at that slow-mo replay and see Soucy lined up for either his stick making contact with McDavid’s chest, or his right fist, raised slightly higher, making contact with McDavid’s chin.
Again, we’re calling either of those outcomes fair-and-square for the slash.
But at the same time, Zadorov enters the scene in dramatic fashion. His response is also a fairly standard one. He gives McDavid a good crank in the numbers, the very definition of a crosschecking minor, but of the variety that happens at least once a playoff game.
It’s the combination of the two points of contact that result in a ghastly collision. Zadorov propels McDavid forward and down, McDavid’s head lowers as a result, and comes into perfect line with Soucy’s oncoming crosscheck.
And Connor gets smoked right in his McChin.
If we were to rank each individual action here by their egregiousness, we’d probably have it like this:
1) McDavid’s slash.
2) Zadorov’s crosscheck from behind.
3) Soucy’s crosscheck from the front.
It is only because Zadorov and Soucy’s crosschecks came at the same time that the result was so bad. And you can’t suspend for coincidence.
Plus, the only reason that the two crosschecks arrived at the exact same time is that they were each direct responses to a slash that was way over the line, and itself an overly-excessive response to a minor shove.
This should really be of the school of “eff around and find out,” not that of the Department of Player Safety.
But as we said near the outset, this article is only going to be about why Soucy and/or Zadorov don’t deserve to be suspended, not why they won’t be. We’re bracing ourselves for the unfair outcome.
Which is unfortunate, because we can’t help but notice that George Parros and friends have let an awful lot of things go already this playoff season that have had at least as negative an outcome as this sandwich, and definitely show far more ill intent.
As difficult as it is for anyone in Vancouver to be upset about it, the recent suckerpunch from Sam Bennett to Brad Marchand, which knocked the Bruins’ forward out of their most recent games, is number one on the list:
No supplemental discipline.
From that same series, how about this hit by Charlie McAvoy on Sam Reinhart, which sure looks to us like a worse version of the infamous Rome hit on Nathan Horton, especially considering Reinhart never touches the puck.
No supplemental discipline.
Or how about Jacob Trouba doing stuff like this approximately once per game?
No supplemental discipline.
There is nowhere in the NHL rulebook that states that incidents involving star players deserve any further punishment. And yet, if and when supplemental discipline is handed down to Soucy and/or Zadorov for what amounts to two crosschecks of the variety that get thrown out several times a playoff game, we’ll all be painfully aware that it’s because of who McDavid is, not because of the intent or severity of the incident itself.
And, of course, because of who Zadorov and Soucy are…and maybe a little bit of who they play for, too.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has proven that certain levels of violence are perfectly acceptable. What they have not proven is an ability to apply those standards with any sort of clarity or consistency. Which is why today, we hope for the best sort of news out of the DoPS, and brace for the worst.
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