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John Scott suspended 7 games for head shot on Loui Eriksson

The NHL Department of Player Safety videos under boss Brendan Shanahan have been effective in revealing the mechanics of their suspensions: What made the play eligible for supplemental discipline? What happened on the play? Why was the player banned for the determined number of games?

John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres was suspended seven games on Thursday for an illegal check to the head of Loui Eriksson. See for yourself if you’re satisfied by the length of the ban or the justification for it.

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From the NHL:

Buffalo Sabres forward John Scott has been suspended for seven games, without pay, for an illegal check to the head of Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson during NHL Game No. 138 in Buffalo on Wednesday, Oct. 23, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 5:49 of the third period. Scott received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Scott will forfeit $26,923.05. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Scott already has served three games of this suspension while awaiting an in-person hearing that was convened this morning.

Shanahan breaks down the hit on Eriksson, which left him with a concussion, by correctly putting the onus on Scott and referencing the impact of his hit. “Although this is not an elbow to the head, the follow through that occurs after contact indicates a significant level of force on this illegal check to the head,” said Shanahan.

Then we get to the odd part, where the Department of Player safety felt it needed to emphasize that Scott’s height advantage wasn’t a factor here.

“Scott had 217 recorded hits in this career, and has never received supplemental discipline for any of them,” said Shanahan. “And while that works in Scott’s favor, it also takes away any argument that illegal head contact on an opposing player is inevitable simply because he’s 6-foot-8.”

There’s two ways to read this, both of them odd. First is the notion that Scott doesn’t have an argument because he’s had 217 hits and none of them earned him a place in front of the NHL sheriffs, which simply means none of the other incidents that involved the head may have risen to that level; i.e. no injuries, and certainly no concussions, which are DOPS catnip.

The other: Because a player hasn’t been suspended before on a hit, he should know better than to deliver the hit? Is that what Shanahan’s getting at? Isn’t the polar-opposite of the NHL’s usual “first-time offender/lesser suspension” paradigm?

I know a lot of you were thinking more than seven for Scott, perhaps even in the 10-game range like Pat Kaleta. But given that it's his first offense, seven games is actually a lofty suspension for Scott, based on previous DOPs rulings. One would have guessed five, in keeping with previous offenders this season. You know, like first-time offender Ryan Garbutt, whose head shot on Dustin Penner was an intentional, leaping hit that was “violent and dangerous.”

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But Garbutt’s hit didn’t happen on “rivalry night.” And Dustin Penner isn’t Loui Eriksson. And John Scott is the type of player the NHL needs to make an example of, because the hockey world has deemed him unfit to play and because he threatened Phil Kessel in the preseason when Randy Carlyle sacrificed him to the beast.

Will the NHLPA appeal? Probably not, given the severity of Eriksson’s injury. Plus, one can’t imagine the PA going to bat for Pat Kaleta and John Scott in consecutive appeals and having to explain that to the majority of its membership that aren’t them.

What say you?

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