Armstrong suspension proves NHL system is flawed

It’s becoming such the norm around the hockey universe that it’s
become
exceedingly tiresome to get involved in. Endless debates about whether a
hit or play merits further discipline by the NHL has become the story
of the 2009-10 NHL season, and the fact that these debates continuously
rage proves that the current system is flawed.

The running joke
surrounds the NHL’s “Wheel of Justice”, playing up the arbitrary manner
in which Colin Campbell hands out suspensions. If you want an incredibly
(and scary) accurate portrayal of just how the messed up the NHL
suspension system is, go no further that Down Goes Brown’s NHL
Suspension Flow Chart
.

The latest such example of the
disparity in opinions surrounds the Colby Armstrong two-game suspension
for his flying forearm into the face of Washington’s Mathieu Perreault.
To some — like myself — the hit is immediately worthy of suspension.
Yet others, such as Puck
Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski
, feel that the play was worthy of perhaps a
four-minute roughing penalty and nothing more. He also notes that the
difference in opinion surrounding these plays is what makes the
suspensions so suspect.

The point is that blogs, fans,
coaches, players involved and
referees all viewed the play in different ways; which is a reminder the
entire
Wheel of Justice concept in the NHL is as much due to the bewildering
nature of
hockey plays as it is Colin Campbell’s inconsistency and the NHL’s
ineptitude.
OK, maybe it’s like 30 percent bewildering nature of hockey plays and 70
percent NHL ineptitude, on second thought.

Greg
mentions that the fact that the NHL doesn’t have a clear and
all-encompassing “head shot rule” makes this hit debatable and leads to
questions about the NHL’s decision to hand down a suspension.

Dismissing
the fact that it was a clear hand/forearm/elbow to Perreault’s face,
the fact that there was no penalty handed out for the hit itself is what
raises the biggest red flag. We know that NHL has decided — at the
very last minute — that it can suspend players for blind sided hits to
the head while in-game penalties don’t apply. But what about straight-on
elbows? Did the on-ice officials just miss the call, or did they decide
that it wasn’t an elbow and the hit was more about Perreault trying to
dodge than Armstrong laying out a dirty hit?

In either case, the
inconsistencies between the on-ice calls and the NHL’s decisions is what
makes the system such a joke. Writers and bloggers can debate the hits
all they want, but when the actual NHL officials don’t seem to agree is
when it become much more questionable.

Whatever your views on this
particular hit might be, Armstrong’s response to the suspension this
afternoon is what is most intriguing. Per
Chris Vivlamore of the AJC
Thrashers Blog:

“I reached across with my right
arm. I just tried
to get a piece of him. It happened the way it happened. By no means did I
mean to hit him
high. I’ve always been a guy that with my hits my arms are down. I hit
with my shoulder. I keep my arms in and try to hit the way I’m supposed
to. This one time, I got caught in a head-to-head going at him and he
gave me a couple moves and I just tried to get a piece of him and I paid
the price.”

Armstrong is known for his ability to lay out big open ice hits,
and it was obvious he made a mistake here. That he admits to playing the
hit wrong is perhaps most telling; like Ovechkin’s hit on Campbell, it
wasn’t that it was overtly dirty play is that it was a dangerous and
reckless one.

The NHL says it’s serious about cutting down on head shots, yet refused to years ago to outright ban all such hits. Now it’s starting to come down hard on borderline hits in the face of public scrutiny.

Until the NHL decides to actually be proactive in these matters, the league will forever be a joke when it comes to supplementary discipline.

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    Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

    AP
    2 Comments

    When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

    The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

    The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

    Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

     Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

    Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

    After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

    The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

    Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

    ————

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

    11 Comments

    Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

    Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

    Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

    Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

    The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

    NJ Devils on Twitter
    4 Comments

    The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

    That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

    Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

    Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

    3 Comments
    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
    • For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

    • Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

    Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

    • The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

    • Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

    • In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

    Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

    • Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

    • Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

    Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

    • How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

    • Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

    • Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

    • Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

    • Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

    • The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

    • Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

    • Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck