Stars forward Jamie Benn avoided a suspension for boarding Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The hit happened during Wednesday’s 3-2 win for Dallas. Taylor Hall scored on the ensuing five-minute major opportunity, but Arizona didn’t make the Stars pay beyond that. The Stars won the special teams battle overall, going 2-for-2 on their chances. That loss, and a lack of suspension, could leave Coyotes fans feeling extra bitter.
Explaining why Benn avoided suspension
Reporters did pass along the league’s potential reasoning for no further discipline, though.
To start, TSN/The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun explained some of the logic:
Player Safety viewed it as a 50-50 puck chase, not a typical boarding suspension where one player was tracking another. They felt it was definitely worth the boarding major which Benn got in-game, but felt it didn't rise to the level of supplemental discipline. https://t.co/0i0YP5ImKu
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 20, 2020
Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News passes along the league’s lengthy video explaining “contact along the boards,” including this portion:
Clip on "Turning just prior to contact." pic.twitter.com/eBUTcPUQ3b
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) February 20, 2020
Stars coach Rick Bowness shared a take that lines up with the Department of Player Safety.
“That’s a tough call,” Bowness said, via The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro (sub required). “Two guys are going for the puck, and one guy turns into the boards, and they are going to bang. It probably looks a lot worse than it is. I hope the guy is OK, and he finished the game, so he must be OK. It’s one of those — sometimes, you put a referee in a tough position. I think that’s one of those.”
Ekman-Larsson returned to Wednesday’s game, which likely also helped Benn’s cause. Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet told reporters that OEL’s neck was sore, but it doesn’t sound major.
Overall, there seems to be some precedent for not providing further discipline. Now, should the NHL consider setting new standards as we learn more about head or neck injuries? I’d say yes, but the league isn’t showing much haste in making sweeping changes.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.