Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
Two minutes into the 2nd period of last night's tussle between the Ducks and Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook put a high hit on Corey Perry behind the net. No call was made on the play, but moments later, Duncan Keith misplayed the puck behind the net, drawing Keith and Seabrook closer together and forcing Keith to make an impromptu play around his defense partner. James Wisniewski used the opportunity to drill Seabrook, crumpling the Chicago defenseman to the ice. A fight between Wisniewski and Keith ensued, and the official calls after the whistle were 5 minute Majors for Fighting for each player, a 2 minute Minor to Keith for Holding and a 2 minute Minor to Wisniewski for Charging. Seabrook returned to the bench but left for the locker room shortly thereafter and did not return.
The focus of the NHL and its fans has recently turned to head hits and "dirty" hits, especially with the recent Ovechkin hit on Brian Campbell. One can't help but wonder if the NHL Wheel of Justice is coming for James Wisniewski, who has already faced its wrath once this season. Daniel, should James Wisniewski be suspended for his hit on Brent Seabrook?
It's hard to get angry at Wisniewski for sticking up for what was, with Getzlaf out, the biggest star in the Anaheim lineup. I'm not sure he should be suspended, but I'm pretty sure he will be. After Ovechkin got that two game suspension for a reckless play near the boards that was more unfortunate accident than malicious hit, how could Wisniewski not be suspended when he clearly smoked Brent Seabrook without Seabrook ever taking possession of the puck. I'm not sure this is the most dangerous of hits, but the culture that the NHL is trying to promote for next season demands that something happen for a hit like this. It was clearly an unexpected hit, and to the East Coast fans who remember the Thuggish Ruggish Ducks of the Burke years, this will be just another example of a team that would be more suited to the prison leagues than the NHL.
Seabrook probably brought a little bit of this upon himself by making a reckless hit on Corey Perry, one that should probably warrant its own suspension. But the league has shown that it is much more interested in punishing hits that injure rather than ones that are truly reckless, and if the league is going to stick to that philosophy, then Seabrook's early departure should probably lead to Wisniewski's disappearance as well.
I think Wisniewski will be suspended, but not because this is a hit on par with what the NHL is looking to outlaw for next season. This isn't a "blindside" or "back pressure" hit. It's an "unsuspecting" hit, but it's a hit the NHL has already outlawed. This was a 5 minute Major for Interference that did not get called on the ice. Charging is a fine call if Seabrook actually had possession of the puck or if Wisniewski wasn't two feet tall, but neither of those things were true when the hit was made. The NHL has already outlawed what Wisniewski did, but because he wasn't punished in-game and because Seabrook returned to the bench at the end of the play, he still has yet to be punished as the rule allows. For that reason, I think Campbell can come down on him for this. And because Wisniewski has already taken a suspension for a hit this season, I think Campbell can come down on him as hard as he likes.
Ultimately, Paul Devorski and Ian Walsh dropped the ball last night. First, by not calling the initial hit on Perry and then by not properly calling the retaliation hit on Seabrook. I would be hard-pressed to say that Wisniewski did anything wrong under the circumstances. Seabrook was playing with fire by going after Perry when the Anaheim forward corps is so riddled with injuries. I don't know if he was expecting the Ducks to go after Kane or Toews in retaliation, but he had to assume something was coming his way. And that's just not the sort of chance you can take with so many injured defensemen in your lineup. You can't assume their enforcer will pull your enforcer aside or they will wait for you to put your head down. If you throw at someone's head, you've got to be prepared for them to rush the mound.
If the NHL wants to punish injuries instead of intent, fine, but the referees have to do their part to stop situations from escalating into an injury. Wisniewski should be suspended because what he did was against the rules and he wasn't punished in-game, but make no mistake, Seabrook is complicit in his own injury. He's not missing time for the senseless acts of an amoral goon.
Wisniewski, Marchant and Perry offer their thoughts on the game.