"Premeditated" is a hell of a term.
We're all familiar with it because it's usually the difference between life in prison and your name on the waiting list for a date with Mr. Death Needle. In hockey, "premeditated" is better know by another alias, "intentional", although the former is usually considered more meticulous than the latter.
Since murder would undoubtedly earn a player a 10-minute misconduct — at a minimum — in today's NHL, most players settle for a lesser charge of "intent to injure."
Which brings us to the elbow from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith on Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin:
Was this premeditated?
Henrik Sedin says "yes," but that Keith isn't the type of player he expected to traffic in that sort of thing.
Duncan Keith said "no," and played the expected speed of the game/I haven't seen the replay card from the post-game PR deck.
What will the NHL say?
Henrik Sedin was pissed off last night; mostly because his twin magic with Daniel meant he's the one who actually felt the elbow. (Creepy.) But also because he felt the hit was over the line:
"It looks pretty ugly. Well, it's one of those hits where things were said before from a certain guy. He did what he wanted to, and that's too bad," he said.
Then Henrik got downright incredulous about teams taking liberties with the Canucks: "They're the tough team over there and we're the 'diving bunch' so there's not much to say about that."
(The "Diving Bunch." Ouch.)
Later, Sedin said of Keith:
"I got a lot of respect for a lot of guys on their team. There've been things said from their room before, but not from him," Henrik said of Keith to NHL.com. "He's always been good, but I don't know if it was too [many] emotions playing against us or what it was. Again, it's too bad. I had a lot of respect for him."
Keith — who's never been fined or suspended in the NHL — attempted to explain what led to his elbowing minor (via CSN Chicago):
"I haven't seen the replay so it's tough for me to comment too much. But I'm not trying to hurt anybody. I hope he's OK. He's one of their best players (so) he needs to be on the ice," Keith said. "But the puck was up in the air, and from what I remember, I'm trying to close my gap and have a good gap on him, right at the last second he moves forward and I don't know where the puck is. It's fast and, like I said, I hope he's OK. I haven't seen the replay. I need to see it again."
No word if upon viewing the replay Keith said: "Oh, [expletive], that's right, I totally Dusty Rhodes'd him in the frontal lobe! It wasn't a hockey play at all!"
"The refs' decision to give Duncan Keith only a 2-minute minor for his elbow to Daniel Sedin's face, rather than a 5-minute major and a game misconduct, however, led to the game going a little off the rails. Daniel not only didn't have the puck — he never touched the puck. If only it was blindside, it could have been a perfect combination of everything the NHL is trying to get out of the game. An in-person call from Brendan Shanahan should be forthcoming. It was an infuriating, inexcusable hit. Elbows don't get that high accidentally."
But again, we return to "intent." Does it absolve Keith at all when Sedin targets him earlier in the game like this:
There's been some comparison to the Brad Marchand hit on Sami Salo, in which Salo's hit earlier in the sequence led to a "predatory" play by Marchand, for which he was suspended five games. That was a case of a clean hit leading to a dirty hit; this Keith/Sedin situation feels more like two wrongs not making a right.
Again, the initial hit doesn't exonerate Keith, but it's also going to be part of the context for a suspension. The Department of Player Safety can still be a very old school place; and would it surprise you at all if they viewed a retaliatory elbow differently than a non-instigated one? Because while Sedin's hit wasn't suspendable, it damn sure wasn't innocent either.
All of this is a reminder that the NHL disciplinary process goes so much deeper than simply what happens in a split second on the ice. It's about what led to it. It's about who participated in it, and what they've done in the past.
And, of course, how contrite you are after the incident. Which is why Keith should be huddling with Blackhawks PR as we speak to craft a message of apology, seeing as how Shane Doan — after being disciplined for reckless plays in consecutive weeks by the NHL — has been elevated to sainthood by his friends in the media for this morsel of remorse.
After all, Doan's The Poor Bastard Stuck In Glendale. The Canucks are The Diving Bunch. Keith is A Nice Guy Who Maybe Got Too Emotional.
Reputations stick like glue in this League. Ask Roberto, who played great last night but probably still is The Guy Who Can't Win In Chicago.