October 11, 2011
Sometime soon, Brendan Shanahan(notes) is going to get tired of writing his suspension scripts and tell Rob Blake(notes), a member of the NHL's Player Safety Department, to step in and take one for the team.
If you're wondering if this case fits what Shanahan has been punishing, the answer is yes.
From the definition of boarding (emphasis ours):
"There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the referees when applying this rule."
Sedin is playing the puck along the boards, has no idea Methot is coming from behind and doesn't turn his body away from the incoming hit like we see players do all too often. The onus is on Methot to pull up and not drive Sedin into the boards there.
Methot defended himself after the game saying the hit wasn't intentional and he "did everything I could to stop". His coach, Scott Arniel, backed him up.
"I'm not sure what else (Methot) can do," Arniel said. "He's coming up with speed. What I'm seeing now is just everybody turning their backs. We have to be careful how we do it.
"If that gets a suspension, we're going a little too far on that rule, because the person who got hit (Sedin) was right back on the power play."
If Arniel wants to know what Methot could have done, they can both re-watch Shanahan's "Clean Hard Hits and Good Decision Plays" video that the NHL sent out last week. There were a number of instances where players either let up on their checks or took a different, and safer angle to the hit.
It's going to take some time for the player's to adjust themselves with this new enforcement of rules. As the season moves along, we should see more and more players pulling up or taking different angles on hits like these ... at least we hope it sinks in.