On Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre Nazem Kadri was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for charging Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. Based on the distance that Kadri travelled to deliver a high, dangerous hit that knocked Sedin's helmet off through head contact, the Referees wisely chose to regard the illegal play as charging instead of an illegal check to the head.
I say this because there is no provision in rule 48 for the officials to impose a major and game misconduct. They are only empowered to assess a minor penalty, or in the most extreme cases a match penalty, if in the judgment of the Referee, the player attempted to deliberately injure his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
Kadri's irresponsible hit rose well beyond a minor penalty, but would certainly fall short of proof that a deliberate attempt to injure Sedin was present. The Refs, in this situation, exercised the wide latitude in judgment available to them within the rules perfectly by utilizing the charging rule to eject Kadri. They did their job!
The question that the Vancouver Canucks and their fans are asking is, did the Department of Player Safety do their job effectively by not convening a formal hearing for Kadri, but instead announcing that no further discipline was warranted?
Jeff Veillette on Twitter provided a good backdoor look at the contact delivered by Kadri. Whether or not Daniel Sedin's head was the "main point of contact" is up for debate. I doubt many would argue that significant head contact resulted from Kadri's angle of approach and method of delivering the hit.
The optics of this illegal play are horrible. Most would likely agree, it is the kind of reckless hit that has no place in the game. But even in these times when player safety has become such an important focus, Stephane Quintal and his department could not justify suspending Kadri given the criteria that has been handed to them.
They are often handcuffed by the very language contained within the rule - one that was crafted to hold players accountable and force them to make better decisions in an effort to reduce dangerous hits and head contact. It is high-time for the GM's to go back to the drawing board to place more of the onus on the guilty party and not the victim.
Based on the language in rule 48.1 the DPS must rule upon whether an opponent's head was the main point of contact and such contact was avoidable. (Secondary or significant contact often becomes disregarded for suspension consideration.)
With regard to the "avoidable" component, if it is determined that the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponents body and the head was not "picked" as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward he receives a pass.
Also whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable or whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to the hit is also considered.
With regard to suspension criteria under rule 42 (charging), a player must launch himself into an opponent with skates clearly off the ice prior to head contact. Kadri was on the toe tips of his skates as he elevated his body and shoulder upon initial contact.
Daniel Sedin was in possession of the puck and in a shooting lane - as such he was eligible to be legally checked. More to the point, an attacker in this position should expect to be hit. This element of the play is not in question.
What is in question (at least for me) is the considerable gap between the two players that created time and space for Kadri to angle his attack and deliver legal contact through his opponent's body. Sedin's body mass was exposed to Kadri throughout the Leafs player's approach.
With Sedin in the act of shooting, Kadri made the poor decision to slip in front of the shooter's center mass, stiffen his legs and elevate his posture. Even though there was slight initial shoulder contact, Sedin's head received the brunt of the impact from the illegal hit. In past versions of rule 48 this angle of approach could be considered from the 'blindside'.
The philosophy that has allowed players to explode upward through a hit that often results in some degree of head contact must change. The language of rule 48 must be altered to truly hold players accountable whenever they demonstrate serious disregard for the safety of their opponents. The slate should be wiped clean and a new standard imposed with regard to suspensions.
The Department of Player Safety needs to be empowered to hold players accountable for any poor decisions that result in careless, reckless and dangerous hits - especially to the head.