The Edmonton Oilers are none too pleased with the National Hockey League’s decision to suspend Connor McDavid two games for his headshot on New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy on Thursday night.
Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson defended McDavid during a meeting with the media on Saturday before the team took to the ice for their pre-game skate.
“We’re really disappointed with the NHL’s decision,” Nicholson said. “This is a first-time offense for Connor. Everyone knows Connor is a skilled player and I thought he did a very good job explaining what he was doing before there was contact with Leddy.”
The hit in question took place at the 17:32 mark of the first period. McDavid was handed a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play. Leddy stayed down for a bit and was summoned for concussion testing but returned for the second period and played out the rest of the game.
McDavid went on to score the overtime winner in a 4-3 win.
Nicholson said McDavid’s intent heading into the hit was to strip the puck from Leddy and when he realized he couldn’t do that, became small and didn’t try to level Leddy.
Nicholson then argued the hit’s principle point of contact (although it clearly was) wasn’t the head.
“I thought the contact started at the chest and there was a deflection into the head but it was a slight deflection into the head,” Nicholson said.
McDavid figured he wouldn’t be suspended prior to the hearing and figured he raised some good points about the hit, but said that once he heard the tone of the voice once in the meeting, he knew that wouldn’t be the case.
“I think a lot of times, you go in and they already have their mind made up,” McDavid said. “They don’t really care what you have to say.”
McDavid said it’s frustrating given that it’s a crucial time for the Oilers. Edmonton sits eight points back of the Minnesota Wild for the second wildcard in the Western Conference heading into Saturday’s action. The Oilers battle the Ducks later on in the day, who are one point ahead of them in the standings. Edmonton needs to leapfrog six teams over their next 22 games to head to the playoffs.
Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock said he feels McDavid deserved better but said the team can’t worry about it right now.
“We just have to keep going,” Hitchcock said. “Fighting the fight isn’t going to do us any good right now.
What goes on, suspension-wise, I’m even sure I know all the rules, to be honest with you,” Hitchcock said.
McDavid was non-committal on appealing the decision. Nicholson said he didn’t think McDavid would.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck