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Alex Edler gets 3-game suspension for hit on Sharks’ Tomas Hertl; too much?

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler was suspended three games for hitting San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl in the head on Thursday night, on a check that sent Hertl’s helmet flying.

From the NHL:

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’s the Brendan Shanahan explanation of the hit:

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As we said earlier, Hertl’s approach to the puck – crouched down, stick out, skating right into Edler’s path – put him in a prone position. No, he doesn’t move his head as Edler makes contact; he didn’t need to, having already skated into a collision with his head at Edler’s rib cage.

Our take is that Edler is going to play the puck, and it warding off Hertl from attempting to play it. Is it a reverse-check? Sure. But there needs to be some allowance for this type of contact, and for that contact to involve the head if the player being hit is skating in a prone position.

Now, that said, why was he given three games?

First, we can pretty much guarantee that any head shot is getting more than one game from the NHL, going forward. There’s only been one suspension in the last two seasons for an illegal check to the head that was smaller than two games: Andrew Ference on Mikhail Grabovski last season. All four suspensions for illegal hits to the head this season have been three or more games.

Edler was a repeat offender, suspended two games last season for charging goalie Mike Smith. But there’s more to his repeat offenses than that suspension.

The NHL Department of Player Safety takes a tough stance against players that continue to hit in a certain manner after being warned about that style. As Brendan Shanahan has said time and again, the NHL is trying to re-educate players on how to hit and change the behavior of those players that his recklessly.

Edler, for what it’s worth, is notorious for this type of play. Witness this check on Kyle Clifford in 2010:

Yes, in fact, it’s the exact same play.

This is a similar hit from Edler on Johan Franzen:

So the NHL looks at these types of hits and holds Edler accountable for a pattern of behavior, along with the hit on Hertl. We might think Edler’s hit was fine, and that he was a victim of circumstance here. But the NHL views it as a reverse-hit they want out of the game.

And thus, he’s suspended, despite our protests.

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