Colin Campbell and the NHL decided that despite no record whatsoever of bad plays, that despite a complete lack of intent, that James Neal's hit from behind on Derek Dorsett was worthy of a two game suspension.
Note: Just so we're clear, I agree that Neal deserved punishment and it could have been much worse. But it feels as if the NHL is reacting to injury and not the hit itself. See: Rob Scuderi hit. This is a classic example of a boarding penalty, and the NHL suspended Neal because of it. Like I've said on Twitter, now it's just an matter of the NHL being consistent with these suspensions.
Not as bad as some wanted, but a bit harsher than I anticipated. It's what I expected, however.
The crackdown on head injuries is going to lead to these types of suspensions and perhaps that's a good thing. I'm all for protecting the players. Yet it's frustrating to see a suspension come only when an injury occurs; Stephane Robidas took an nasty cross check in the back straight into the boards earlier in the game; the hit set off a big scrum and Rick Nash was penalized for it. But if Robidas had broken some bones in his face and received a concussion, Nash would be facing Campbell as well. Is that what is fair?
So this is hurtful in a couple of ways for the Stars and James Neal. First off, James Neal will be a 'repeat offender' for any borderline hits going forward, which is tough for a young player who plays as physical as he does. Second, Neal is arguably the Stars most consistent and explosive player on offense this season and with the Stars fighting the consistency bug, losing him for two games is going to hurt.
More from Mike Heika and Greg Wyshynski after the jump.
The league just had meetings about dangerous play and hits to the head, and this was a very visible injury, and I think that had to factor into the decision. The league is sending a message to everyone that any kind of dangerous hits won't be tolerated.
Hopefully, they will be consistent with that going forward.
Just like I stated this morning, Neal's hit on Dorsett came at the absolute worst time. The NHL has stated it's going to crack down on head injuries and hits from behind and with the media causing an uproar over these hits the NHL was basically forced to punish Neal in this manner. Forget the inconsistencies in suspensions so far this season; the NHL has re-set itself moving forward and this is an example of that.
Derek Dorsett did not have the puck and Neal hit him from behind into the boards. It was not an intently vicious hit, no elbow was thrown; it's just unfortunate for everyone involved that Dorsett hit the glass as that angle. The resulting way he fell to the ice didn't help much.
Greg Wyshynski has a great take on the hit as well, and I have to completely agree with him.
The "optics" of the hit make this a slam-dunk suspension, according to the NHL Wheel of Discipline. High hit to the back of the head, sandwiching Dorsett's noggin against the glass, and then the Blue Jackets player flopping to the ice like a marionette with his strings cut.
Anyone that's been following Colin Campbell's thought process on these things had to know something was coming Neal's way.
There was just too much that went right (or wrong) for Neal not to get suspended, and that's unfortunate. It's the way the NHL has handled these hits all season long, especially when there's an injury involved. Campbell explained the lack of suspension for Rob Scuderi by saying "he's never been in trouble before, and the hit player wasn't injured." Dorsett was injured, and a suspension followed. That's the way the wheel is spinning.
Here's the video of the hit. I must warn you though; the announcers are not on the Stars' side on this one.