In terms of tweaking the tinfoil hit brigade who need to believe screws are being turned against their team, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds star Nick Cousins' four-game suspension for a checking-from-behind major last weekend hits the spot.
It's probably also about the right length of punishment for a play that nowhere near tops the roll call of abject on-ice conduct last week in the Ontario Hockey League, which has meted out at least 31 games' worth of suspensions to six players. The at least is because the league has not ruled on how many games Barrie Colts star centre Mark Scheifele will receive for a boarding major/game misconduct during a game last Friday in Sudbury. The other prominent player who is sitting down, London Knights left wing Matt Rupert, might have got off lightly with a 10-game ban for a predatory hit last Sunday.
In Cousins' case, the conspiracy theories pertaining to the length of a suspension likely started before that game last Friday had even ended. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect has played this season while sexual assault charges against he and two other OHL players are before the courts (which is awkward to talk about, but that's one-trillionth as important as due process and the well-being of all involved). So when Cousins was placed under suspension, the argument was put forth that he would be shelved for "long enough to jeopardize his chances of winning the scoring crown."
Like that matters, given the gravity of the off-ice situation, but this is a junior hockey blog occasionally. A guesstimate is the suspension takes Cousins from being an 80-85 per cent shot to claim the scoring title to it being a toss-up between he, Sarnia Sting captain Charlie Sarault and Plymouth Whalers centre Vincent Trocheck. Cousins has 98 points to Sarault's 97 with Trocheck lurking with 91. Missing three more games does not completely rule out Cousins prevailing: — Cousins' remaining six games consist of March 7 at Windsor, March 8 at Guelph, March 10 at Kitchener, March 13 vs. Plymouth, March 16 vs. Kitchener and March 17 vs. London. That works out to three games against the three stingiest clubs in the OHL's Western Conference. Keep in mind that London will have zip to play for on March 17 since the Knights will likely have first overall in the league wrapped up.
— Sarault has a game in hand on Cousins, with up to seven to play. The overage centre's schedule: Friday at London, Saturday at Saginaw, March 8 vs. London, March 10 vs. Guelph, March 14 vs. Saginaw, March 15 vs. Owen Sound, March 16 at Owen Sound. That works out four games against good defensive teams, including two against a London team which will still have reason to be motivated.
— Trocheck has more rocks left (that's right, a curling term when talking about a player from Pennsylvania who's on a Michigan team). The Whalers still have eight to play: Thursday at Niagara, Friday at Erie (the OHL's second-most porous team), Sunday at Mississauga, March 5 at Saginaw, March 10 vs. Saginaw, March 13 at Sault Ste. Marie, March 16 vs. Windsor, March 17 at Windsor. Plymouth has only one game left against a team yet to allow 200 goals this season.
There. The cheque for furnishing plausible deniability is hopefully in the mail. It's a wash. No proof of anything. There is also no knowing on a snowy last Wednesday of February, how intense some of those games in the final week before the playoffs will be. Or if one team will use a shadow because it really doesn't want anyone to get the scoring title at their expense, not that any of above three are unpopular with opponents after several years in the OHL. No sirree. Or if top-end players will even play and be exposed to greater risk of injury.
But hey, people will believe what they need to get through the night. Rupert and Cousins have often been antagonists during London-Sault Ste. Marie games, now Rupert will miss that one (justifiably so), so there's that.
Meantime, many OHL fans chafe at the league's turnaround time with suspensions. Supplemental disclipline coming out of a game on the weekend is often not announced until the following Wednesday or Thursday. Instead of railing against it, people should have some fun with it. Give a nickname to a day such as Wednesday, when six players were suspended a total of 31 games, pending how long Scheifele sits after getting two game misconducts last Friday. Wrist Slap Wednesday? Suppday, as a play on Humpday?
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.