Pierre-Marc Bouchard is the latest to be served a suspension from Brendan Shanahan, getting a two-game ban for his high stick last night against Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported it and Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune confirmed.
Here's a description of the infraction from Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch.
Calvert lost at least a couple of teeth and needed stitches to close a cut on the left side of his upper lip, but he was able to return to the game in the third period.
The Blue Jackets were outraged that Bouchard was able to finish the game. They wanted a major penalty and a game misconduct, and coach Scott Arniel was quite animated in his argument on the bench. Instead, Bouchard was given a double-minor, the standard call when a high-stick results in bloodshed.
Shanahan released the explanation video, describing the decision.
Columbus coach Scott Arniel was less than pleased about it after the game.
"It's definitely an attempt to injure Arniel said. "Our whole bench saw it. Their whole bench saw it.
"We want to talk about getting hit from behind and shots to the head, but we allow a guy to stay in the game after taking a baseball swing at a guy's face? That's a joke."
You might remember during the preseason the Wild and Blue Jackets had a testy affair. That game saw Brad Staubitz of the Wild receive a suspension for a hit from behind and a later play from Columbus' James Wisniewski led to a heavy eight-game regular-season suspension. I'd say these teams are building up some bad blood.
But after watching the video, I do wonder: As the announcer points out, did Calvert almost hit himself in the face with Bouchard's stick? Notice the two are jostling back and forth when Calvert lifts Bouchard's stick and it seems like he shoots it right into his own face. You are responsible for your own stick, so the penalty in the game is justified still, but should he have received further punishment?
“It was just a bad accident. It was just a battle there on the faceoff," Bouchard said earlier on Sunday. "He comes after me before the puck drops and we go at it. He lifts my stick and it hits him in the mouth. I’m not that kind of player. I was not aiming for his mouth.”
I have to say, this is the first of the suspensions that I really disagree with. Obviously it is subjective, but it really looks like an accident to me. It sure seems Calvert unintentionally lifts Bouchard's stick into his own face to me. Even Shanahan admits to that being the situation. But as always, he is ultimately responsible for where his stick goes and no matter if Bouchard intended to hit him in the hands or not. I just can't see this suspension being the right call. The penalty he took in the game and maybe a supplemental fine would have sufficed.
Apparently Bouchard's agent Allan Walsh feels the same way. Here's part of a scathing email he sent to Russo about the whole situation.
"What message is Brendan Shanahan sending with this unwarranted suspension? All perennial Lady Byng candidates should now be on notice that when an opponent high sticks himself in the mouth, he can expect a minimum suspension of 2 regular season NHL games. This result is a shameful farce for the League.
"All in all, these 20 minute disciplinary hearings are nothing more than kangaroo courts. More League effort goes into writing scripts and producing slick video's than in getting to the real facts of what occurred on the ice. It's an inherent conflict of interest for an employee of the NHL to be conducting these hearings and imposing suspensions on players. It's time for a neutral 3rd party not associated with the league or the players to take over supplementary discipline as this system clearly does not work."
Wow. There has been some criticism already, but this is easily the most scathing. Now the discussion is really on.