That didn’t take long: the Department of Player Safety heard what Cody McLeod had to say about his hit that left Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall on a stretcher and determined that McLeod will be suspended for five games, just like Max Lapierre, who put San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle on a stretcher earlier in the week.
It’s a tricky play and defensemen certainly leave themselves in a vulnerable position with sudden turns and changes in direction along the wall. NHL head punishment honcho Brendan Shanahan talked about that.
“With the speed of today’s game, there often are occaisons where a player changing direction or turning his back just prior to or simultaneous with an oncoming check may absolve a checker from responsibility. The boarding rule states that we are to consider it. It certainly is a notable aspect of the play, and we have considered it.”
That didn’t save McLeod, however.
“The key to this play, however,” Shanahan says, “is that we are convinced McLeod has time to avoid or minimize checking Kronwall from behind. This is because, although Kronwall cuts back, McLeod actually makes an adjustment to his own path, and is responsible for the violent collision that results.”
While the suspension seems fair (and probably not coincidental that it falls one game short of the suspension standard in which a player can appeal), something needs to be done about this specific type of hit. The hitter should pull up, yes, but the hittee puts himself in a poor position.
So what can be done? It was suggested on last night’s NBCSN telecast that perhaps a “bearhug” rule should be implemented. What does that mean? If the hitter is attempting to make a physical play on a player in the corner or along the wall, he should momentarily be able to wrap his arms around the hittee and guide him into the wall. It allows the aggressor to make the play he’s been taught all his life – finish your check – while protecting the hittee.
It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this, but for now, the Avalanche will be without McLeod for the next four games (he missed last night’s tilt with Pittsburgh).