Colorado Avalanche: Examining Landeskog’s Two Suspensions

Mar 20, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) warms-up before the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) warms-up before the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog received two suspensions from the Department of Player Safety. Were both justified, though?

Colorado Avalanche left wing — and captain — Gabriel Landeskog got suspended twice during the 2015-16 season. On the face of it, that looks bad. You don’t want to see the leader of your team get suspended even once, much less twice.

However, as is always the case, the NHL Department of Player Safety proved to be wholly inconsistent in how it handed out rulings. So, while it’s true that Landeskog ended up missing five games due to suspension, it could be that some of that supplemental discipline was unwarranted.

Let’s examine the two hits.

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Gabriel Landeskog Hit on Brad Marchand

During the November 12, 2015, game against the Boston Bruins, Landeskog hit left wing Brad Marchand in the open ice of the Colorado Avalanche defensive zone. Marchand had just shot the puck.

Here’s the play:

If you look at the play in slow motion, it looks as if the principle point of contact is shoulder on shoulder with secondary contact to Marchand’s head.

Unfortunately, the DoPS determined otherwise, saying that Marchand’s head had been the principle point of contact of a blindside hit. The department further explained:

"“Though blindside hits are not illegal in and of themselves, they place the onus entirely upon the player delivering the hit to ensure that the head is not the main point of contact.”"

At the time, Landeskog received a match penalty and was ejected from the game. Being given a match penalty meant the DoPS would automatically review the play for supplemental discipline.

I believe that’s part of the reason Landeskog received said supplemental discipline — the automatic review. The DoPS was going to have to come out with a rationale for a decision either way. If the department wants to look strong on head injuries, it would have to act decisively.

However, there are points for the other side of the argument. First of all, Marchand was not injured — the DoPS usually takes that into consideration. Yet Marchand was so not injured that he sucker-punched Landeskog as the Colorado Avalanche captain skated over to apologize (for which Marchand received a two-minute roughing penalty). Marchand also finished the game.

Indeed, after the game, Marchand himself said of the hit and the player:

"“Things happen quick. I know that I’ve been there. I’m sure [Landeskog] didn’t mean it. I don’t think he’s a dirty player. It’s hockey. It is what it is.”"

Yet Landeskog received a two-game suspension for that hit. I don’t believe that suspension was justified, but it served as a “history” rationale when the second questionable hit came up.

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Gabriel Landeskog Hit on Simon Depres

During the March 9, 2016, game against the Anaheim Ducks, Gabriel Landeskog cross-checked Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Depres. Again, the action happened in the open ice of the Colorado Avalanche defensive zone.

Here’s the play:

This one’s bad. There’s no question Landeskog was in the wrong, and he said as much in a press conference:

"“I respect the league’s decision. There’s no excuse — it was just a dumb play. It wasn’t at all my intention to come in the way I did. Watching the video, there’s simply no excuse… I’m really embarrassed watching the tape.”"

Depres didn’t get hurt, and Landeskog didn’t receive a penalty during the game, but no one’s going to question it was a bad hit.

The DoPS explained the rationale for the suspension:

"“This is not a battle for the puck or positioning. The backchecking Landeskog comes through with speed and recklessly raises his stick into Despres’ head. While we understand his explanation that he was not targeting his opponent’s head, players must be responsible for their stick.”"

However, the department goes on to add that “Landeskog is considered a repeat offender,” which is part of the reason he received a three-game suspension for a play that didn’t result in an injury. And that relates back to the Marchand hit.

If Landeskog hadn’t received supplemental discipline for the hit on Brad Marchand, then he wouldn’t have been considered a repeat offender. And a repeat offender may have received only a one- or two-game suspension.

And I argue that Gabriel Landeskog shouldn’t have been suspended for the Marchand hit.

Next: Landeksog's Player Grade

We all know the NHL Department of Player Safety is flawed. I’ll go into the flaws more deeply in a later post. However, I will say that, until there’s some oversight on the DoPS, this department supposedly helping players will also hurt them. Gabriel Landeskog forfeited $203, 832.75 for the second suspension. That’s a lot of the man’s personal money for a department with no oversight to be in control of.