I won’t waste time debating the suspension, the length of it, or whether it’s even correct to instantaneously dish out a reasonably stiff punishment – the suspension will cost Edler nearly $183,000 off his salary – for a play that wasn’t even assessed a penalty on the ice.
What we know is, Edler’s shoulder contacted Hertl’s head. That’s all that matters, according to the NHL’s rules in 2013.
From Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s division of player safety, followed by the league’s filmed explanation:
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler has been suspended for three games, without pay, for an illegal check to the head of San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl during NHL Game No. 56 in Vancouver on Thursday, October 10, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
Edler is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, he will forfeit $182,926.83. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. The incident occurred at 19:46 of the second period. No penalty was assessed on the play.
Here are the facts:
1. Edler is technically a repeat offender – and that’s not counting his only truly dirty play, a knee-on-knee to Eric Staal in last year’s World Championships – but his history of handling out similar hits that were deemed legal but juuuuuuuust didn’t quite feel fuzzy enough is known.
2. Hertl is a rookie. He’s an innocent, exciting young player who everyone loves right now, for sure. He didn’t retaliate. He just looked for the bench. His teammates, however, did retaliate… or try to.
3. In the video below, you’ll hear the San Jose-based broadcast. They sound not only shocked but appalled by the hit. This is probably because they’re complete homers, but Vancouver’s broadcasts can easily be accused of the same hear no evil, see no evil bias – after all, we have John Garrett.
4. Edler has been suspended three games for a hit that, until recently and even in children’s PeeWee leagues, would have been described as “finishing your check”.
5. It would be a shame to see Edler stop playing this way just because Brendan Shanahan wants him to, even if it costs him more money or games. His hits can be game-changers for the better – remember when he smacked Patrick Kane in Game 1 of the 2011 quarterfinals and rendered the Hawks young star pretty much useless until Game 4? – and they’re often always legal.
6. Still, Edler will have to learn how to adapt his style to the current system, just like Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall. It should be noted, however, that Kronwall has never been suspended, even for hits like all of these.
7. Hertl has his head down. HE HAD HIS HEAD DOWN! Five seasons ago, his role in the highlights above would have been called a rookie mistake. It would have been called an introduction to the NHL.
8. Of course, Hertl deserves a lot of commendation on this play, too. Not only was he not injured but he seems to display little anger, as well. He just takes his spot on the bench and seems content to learn for next time.
The kid’s a gamer. No question.
9. Then again, if Hertl wasn’t injured, why was this even a suspension? Couldn’t we just say that Edler deserved a penalty but the refs made a mistake? Why does he have to burn for, essentially, doing something that caused no harm to anyone? Edler wasn’t accused of ‘intent to injure’ either, which means he was basically suspended for rolling through a stop sign without causing an accident.
10. Is there going to be a time when we start criticizing players – like we used to – for not properly going into contact when they have the puck?
I’m not saying Hertl’s that kind of player, but there are a number of others who get away with putting themselves in vulnerable positions when they might just deserve to get knocked into next Tuesday every once in a while.
Play smart, or sit hurt. Since when did hockey go from boot camp to wine tasting?
Taylor Hall immediately comes mind:
11. Here’s a visual display of Edler’s hit. It’s nice to see Hertl still standing afterwards, just as it was nice to see the Sharks wait for the whistle before they pretended to be outraged: