November 05, 2010
The reason to get outraged over Joe Thornton's(notes) two-game suspension for his hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward David Perron(notes) Thursday night is that Perron wasn't injured; hell, he scored a goal less than 10 minutes later in the 2-0 Blues win.
That lack of injury, a lack of intent, and the impact of kicking the captain out of a huge conference game for the San Jose Sharks made us think there wouldn't be any supplemental discipline. Little did we know the NHL was continuing the education process for Rule 48, and thus had to suspended Thornton Thursday.
(UPDATE: For the sake of clarification, we're talking about the lack injury immediately after the hit and during the suspension process; Perron had headaches on Saturday that kept him out of the Blues' game against the Bruins.)
As a refresher, the second-period hit in the neutral zone that cost the Sharks Thornton for nearly 2 1/2 games (keep in mind Mike Murphy(notes), rather than Colin Campbell, did the legwork on the decision, per Strickland):
From the NHL:
San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton has been suspended for two games and will forfeit $77,419.36 in salary as a result of delivering an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward David Perron in NHL game #176, last night, the National Hockey League announced today.
The incident occurred at 5:26 of the second period and Thornton was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct under Rule 48 for Illegal Check to the Head. Thornton will miss games against Tampa Bay (Nov. 6) and Anaheim (Nov. 9). He is eligible to return Nov. 11 against the New York Islanders.
The NHL is still making statements, still making examples so these players understand what it is Rule 48 is trying to eliminate from the game. A glancing blow to the head of a player in the neutral zone when he's not expecting it is, apparently, top of the charts. So Thornton is a 6-foot-4 billboard on what not to do that'll imprint on the memory more than any preseason DVD will.
This is a statement to the players, as loud as any the League has made this season: Even the seemingly benign blindside hits are on the radar. The game has changed.
And so it has. So Thornton's agent will consider an appeal (via Dreger) and the Sharks and their fans will get all sorts of pissed off that this was a suspension rather than a fine, like the one Nick Foligno(notes) received for basically doing the same thing Thornton did.
Logically, they're right: This should have been a fine at worst, or simply left as an in-game penalty. But logic has no home in these decisions, because they're all for show at the moment, until the NHL is convinced the message about Rule 48 has been drilled into their players' heads.
"We strongly disagree with the two-game suspension handed down by the NHL today to Joe Thornton," Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "What is most distressing is that we feel the suspension is not consistent to the recent reviews by the League following similar collisions resulting in players leaving the penalty box and establishing their place on the ice, including Willie Mitchell(notes) on Jonathan Toews(notes).
"In Joe's case, it was clearly not a predatory-type hit with an intent to injure, shown by the fact that the player returned to the ice for his next shift so it is clear that the contact to the head was minimal. We put a lot of time and effort into helping define the NHL's new rule on headshots but we feel strongly that this suspension is not a reflection of the rule's true intent."
Odd they'd mention the Mitchell/Toews hit, which occurred before the head-shot crackdown.