We discussed Shane Doan’s questionable hit on Ducks forward Dan Sexton this morning and how the league would be looking into it and NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell has doled out some swift justice. Doan was suspended for three games by the league for his late, blindside hit to the head of Sexton (see video of the hit here). What didn’t help Doan’s situation was his hit earlier in the game that broke the nose of Ducks rookie defenseman Cam Fowler. While the league didn’t fine nor act on that hit, you have to think it was in the back of the mind of Campbell when figuring out how to punish the Coyotes captain.
Of course, like all suspensions in the NHL, there’s some controversy. Coyotes fans are upset because they’ll be without Doan for three games and they feel that the hit didn’t warrant such a stiff penalty, comparing it to Niklas Hjalmarsson’s hit from behind on Jason Pominville last week. There is a significant difference between the two, however, and the main one being that Doan’s hit is the exact sort of thing the NHL warned they’d be looking out for this season.
Whether you like it or not, Doan’s hit on Sexton is precisely the kind of hit needed to send the message that the NHL is going to be serious about enforcing this and trying to protect the players better, even on a play that went without a penalty call in the game (note: Doan wasn’t called for a penalty on the play). Even Colin Campbell makes specific mention saying “this is the type of hit we want out of the game.”
While we’re quick to poke fun at Campbell for his wild inconsistencies when it comes to punishment, if this type of punishment is going to be the standard for shots to the head, then it’s worthy of commendation. After the league fell asleep at the wheel in failing to punish Matt Cooke for his disgusting hit on Marc Savard, a change was needed. Concussions are no joke and making a reckless run at a player in the way that Doan did can put him out for an untold amount of time. Savard’s slow recovery from last year’s hit should stand out as an example of how bad things can be.
The key for the NHL here is to stay consistent in punishing players. If another play like this occurs and the player is either fined or, worse, let off without even a slap on the wrist then the entire thing is going to be left to stand out like a shining mockery of how to do things and the jokes about the Wheel of Justice will persist and with good reason. For now, this is a good first step for the league but they have to stay vigilant if they want players to start taking this seriously.