NHL Department of Player Safety

Evander Kane rips Player Safety for ‘ridiculous’ three-game suspension

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s decisions have come under fire lately — even more than usual. Following his three-game suspension for elbowing Neal Pionk, Evander Kane absolutely unloaded on George Parros and other decision-makers.

In particular, Kane claimed that “bias transpires in this department.” The Sharks winger claims that they pick and choose who gets “the book” and who gets a pass.

” … No one person can tell you what is or isn’t a suspension in today’s game, it’s become a complete guess,” Kane wrote as part of his statement. “There is a major lack of consistency with NHL Department of Player Safety. A completely FLAWED system in so many ways.”

Kane shares examples of inconsistencies he sees from Player Safety

Kane pointed to Zdeno Chara being fined (instead of suspended) for cross-checking Brendan Gallagher in the face:

Kane also wondered why he was suspended while Lawson Crouse avoided discipline for what Kane believes was a similar hit:

Full statement from Kane on Player Safety

Kane tweeted out his statement:

Read Kane’s statement in text form, if that’s easier:

The fact the NHL Department of Player Safety headed by George Parros continue to pick and choose, who and what they suspend is ridiculous! There have been countless incidents of the same nature through this season and past seasons that have gone unsuspended or fined. No one person can tell you what is or isn’t a suspension in today’s game, it’s become a complete guess. There is a major lack of consistency with NHL Department of Player Safety. A completely FLAWED system in so many ways. From the suspensions to appeal rights, it’s baffling to me how we as players agreed to this. You can’t continue to give some players a pass and throw the book at others. There has to be a outside third party making these decisions to remove the bias that transpires in this department headed by George Parros. None of it makes any sense.

Explanation for suspension

It’s wise to consider the specific suspension for a moment.

The league did thoroughly explain Kane’s suspension. The video describes it as a “dangerous extension of the elbow outward and upward.” It also cited Kane’s suspension history, and history of delivering over-the-line elbows.

Kane’s statement doesn’t really go into much detail about the hit on Pionk itself. Instead, Kane focused on a perceived double-standard, or a lack of clarity. Merely traipse around Hockey Twitter for a bit and you’ll realize Kane is not alone.

Many believe that Zack Kassian should have been suspended for more than seven games for recklessly kicking at Erik Cernak with his skate blade. That Chara fine instead of suspension also ranks up among the more polarizing recent decisions. In general, plenty argue that the league needs to do a better job protecting stars; it’s all too common for Elias Pettersson and others to be targeted.

However you feel about Kane’s statement, it’s clear that this process has a lot of room to improve.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Oilers’ Kassian suspended seven games

Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian
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Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been suspended seven games for his kicking actions against Erik Cernak of the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday.

Kassian is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, will forfeit $166,463.43 according to the press release.

Here’s the Department of Player Safety’s explanation for the seven-game suspension:

The NHL has suspended Kassian four times in his NHL career including an incident a few weeks ago against the Calgary Flames. The power forward was sidelined for two games at the time due to violating rule 46.2 which states, “The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant.”

Edmonton signed Kassian to a four-year extension following that incident in January. The contract is worth $12.8 million with an average annual value of $3.2 million but does not have any no-trade protection.

Kassian has recorded 14 goals and 16 assists in 52 games this season, surpassing his previous career high of 29 points set in 2013-14.

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

Perreault sounds off on NHL Player Safety after Virtanen hit

Perreault Player Safety criticism Rask Kassian Tkachuk
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Jets forward Mathieu Perreault went on a profane tirade about Canucks winger Jake Virtanen avoiding supplemental discipline for an errant elbow. Perreault blasted the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in detailed and colorful ways, and it’s “get your popcorn” territory.

“Player safety, my a–,” Perreault said to various media members, including Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun.

“This is literally an elbow to the face of a guy that didn’t have the puck. I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me. I’m the smallest guy in the ice so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick so the next guy that does that to me is gonna get my f—ing stick. And I better not get suspended for it.”

Check out footage of the hit in question:

Perreault isn’t the only one blasting Player Safety

Perreault fumed after the Tuesday game (a 4-0 win for the Jets) and that feeling clearly didn’t subside much with time. It sure seems like the grumbling has been building lately about what draws supplemental discipline, and what does not.

It doesn’t sound like anything is coming down the pike for Emil Bemstrom of the Blue Jackets, who concussed Bruins Tuukka Rask on Tuesday:

Perreault’s warning about swinging around his blankety blanking stick also isn’t the only recent version of a player saying “Well, if they can get away with, I guess I can too.” Ponder Zack Kassian‘s quotes about Matthew Tkachuk avoiding a suspension for controversial hits, and feel free to use ominous background music:

“For sure they are going to watch the game, but I think I can do what Matthew Tkachuk did if the league is saying it is clean,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcription. “I can do exactly that. I didn’t think you were allowed to, but after speaking with George apparently you are allowed. That is fine. That is great news. I’m a big guy who can skate and I can do that kind of stuff.”

That big gulp you heard might have been from George Parros, who could have a mess on his hands when the Flames face the Oilers again. Or any time Perreault feels like he must defend himself with his (bad word[s]) stick.

While Perreault stews about this personal grievance, the Jets need him to stay cool. With Carl Dahlstrom the latest defenseman out with a significant injury, Winnipeg cannot afford to take bad penalties. Even if Perreault deploys the same great vengeance and furious anger, righteous or not.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Sundqvist to face hearing after boarding Bruins’ Grzelcyk

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(UPDATE: Sundqvist has been suspended for Game 3.)

Oskar Sundqvist may have only received a minor penalty for a crushing hit from behind that forced Matt Grzelcyk from Game 2, but he’ll now have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Sundqvist’s first-period transgression has earned him a hearing on Thursday with George Parros and Co.

You can watch the video above, but essentially Sundqvist caught Grzelcyk from behind, and what appeared to be in the head, behind the Boston net late in the opening frame. The debate will rage over the awkwardness of the hit and whether Sundqvist could have done much when Grzelcyk appeared to move right before the check occurred.

Grzelcyk didn’t return to the game as the Bruins played the final two periods and overtime with five defensemen. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Grzelcyk was taken to hospital to get further tests and that he was still waiting for an update regarding his defenseman.

Sundqvist no-commented on the play following the game.

Other’s didn’t hold back.

Bruins forward and former Blues captain made no bones about what he thought the hit deserved after the game.

“I don’t think that’s a hit we want in our game,” Backes said. “It’s from behind, elevated, into his head, into the glass. If that’s a two-minute penalty, I think there’s going to be a shortage of defensemen in this series by the end of it.

“That’s in somebody else’s hands. That’s something I think if I’m making that hit, I’m probably watching from the bleachers for a few, but we’ll see what happens with their player.”

Cassidy lamented the loss of Grzelcyk.

“Losing the 16 minutes of [Grzelcyk’s] time, good puck mover, guy that can break down a forecheck when he’s on, that was clearly a strength of theirs tonight and a weakness of ours, breaking the pucks out,” Cassidy said. “That’s where we missed him the most, I felt like. Getting back on pucks. He’s pretty good at a quick-escape move, a pretty clean pass, get our forwards moving through the neutral zone, which is a strength of our game. We lost some of that element and I think it showed.”

The Bruins could turn to John Moore, who came in for Zdeno Chara in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, or Steven Kampfer. Cassidy said he’s not worried about replacements if they do have to come in.

“They’ve played in the playoffs, helped us win games,” he said.

Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.


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

Kucherov handed one-game ban for boarding, misses Game 3

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Already reeling from being down 2-0 in a series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to deal with their “five-alarm fire” without their best man equipped to douse the flames.

Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s leading point producer during the regular season, is banned from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round series on Sunday.

Kucherov lost his cool late in a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Friday, slashing Blue Jackets’ Markus Nutivaara and then, when he was on his knees in a vulnerable spot, drilling him into the half boards.

Kucherov was given two for tripping, a five-minute major for boarding and assessed a game misconduct on the play.

The league moved swiftly on this one after announcing the hearing late Friday.

George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, said while the hit isn’t excessively violent in nature, there are a number of other factors that play into it meriting supplemental discipline.

“Kucherov is control of this play at all times,” Parros said in the department’s suspension video. “This is not a play where Nutivaara falls to the ice suddenly or unexpectedly in a way that leaves Kucherov little time to react.”

Parros said the reason Nutivaara was on the ice in the first place was because of the trip Kucherov put on him prior to the hit, leaving the Blue Jackets defenseman in a defenseless position.

“Kucherov takes advantage of this situation to deliver a dangerous hit on a player in an exposed, defenseless position,” Parros said.

And above all this, Parros said that the department believes the incident falls under Article 18.2 of the NHL’s collective bargain agreement when it comes to “message send,” where an incident occurs late in the game, with a lopsided score and/or from prior events in the game.

“While we understand that frustration often occurs at the end of a game, dangerous or retaliatory plays delivered in the final minutes of a playoff game will be viewed in context and punished accordingly,” Parros said.

The Lightning are already in big trouble. They’ve been outplayed badly over the first two games and none of their big names — and there are a lot of them — are producing anything. They badly needed Kucherov to show up in Game 3 after having now points in the first two games.

It’s dire in Tampa, given the lack of point production.
• Nikita Kucherov – 0 points
Steven Stamkos – 0 points
Brayden Point – 0 points

Each of those guys had 40 or more goals this season and at least 90 points.

Three sides of the milk carton are already taken up, and you could easily fill up the fourth with others on the team. Hell, you might need multiple milk cartons just to address all those who are MIA.

With Victor Hedman’s status in question, the Lightning could be running with without last year’s Norris winner and this year’s likely Hart recipient.

Still, they are hopeful.


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