This is the time of year when we should be focused on the Maple Leafs and their attempt to push for a higher spot in the standings. With the team sitting tantalizingly close to a position within the unspoken word it is hard to believe our attention has been, at least temporarily, diverted to a potentially more serious matter.
The NHL just messed up bad. As much as Campbell and Co. have handed out puzzling suspensions in the past the lack of punishment on Zdeno Chara is disgusting. A player’s career could be in jeopardy and the league’s response is a collective “Oh well.”
At a bare minimum Chara should have gotten 1-2 games, this seems to be the going rate for reckless hits resulting in serious injury (Which is about six steps below miming fellatio and insulting ex-girlfriends). Player safety isn’t the only issue, teams, like Toronto, facing a Bruins team without Chara would go in with a much different gameplan likely with different results.
A valid argument for or against suspension is player intent on the hit. Many are suggesting, myself included, that Chara did not intentionally drive Max Pacioretty into the glass. Instead what he did do was intentionally hit a player without the puck, an illegal play which normally would result in a two minute penalty. Obviously what makes this different is the large scale injury that came as a result of an illegal hit. Intent should only be used to determine if extra games should be added to a suspension, not the only thing deciding if a suspension is warranted.
That is where the league should be looking, forget intent, it has nothing to do with this play. Chara made an illegal bodycheck which is a penalty, this infraction resulted in a severe injury. This is as simple as it gets:
Illegal Play + Massive Injury = Suspension
How does the NHL not see the connection here?
It is a guarantee that if you replace Chara with Colton Orr, Steve Downie or any moderately high profile agitator/tough guy there would be a multiple game suspension with or without intent. There is a belief that Chara got off based on a clean track record.
To say he has no history of these hits is 100% false.
Take a look at this video of Chara hitting Grabovski.
What you have here is the aggressor approaching a player mostly from behind. I say mostly, as it is not a clear cut hit from behind. As Chara nears the player he targets the back of the shoulder in both cases. These are only 2 examples of the dangerous plays this man makes. Sure they are not altogether illegal or suspension worthy but the possibility of injury is very real and Grabovski is lucky he wasn’t put out for the season as a result.
Again, I do not believe Chara was looking to injure Pacioretty, but he made a completely reckless and very dangerous play. He broke a rule to deliver a hit and nearly paralyzed his target. To let him off without even a slap on the wrist in a scary thought. If the league isn’t going to protect its players and allows these dangerous plays go unpunished then it is only a matter of time until play stops for a funeral.
Worth noting that Chara has struck once again, taking another player from behind and only got a 2 minute boarding penalty.