The NHL suspended Senators defenseman Eric Gryba 2 games for hitting Lars Eller in the “head” on Thursday night, in a horrific event that saw Eller’s face hit the ice. You have all seen the event by now, but here is the NHL department of Player Safety reasoning for the suspension.
Not that I didn’t expect a suspension, but it is the reasoning behind it that I have a problem with. While the reasoning seems solid, Shanahan failed to mention that Eller turned up the ice right after receiving the pass from Raphael Diaz (aka Player #61). If Eller had continued on his line that he was on, Gryba’s hit would have been completely shoulder to shoulder and Eller would not have been the victim of such serious injury.
I am not placing the blame on Eller, or Diaz for that matter, but it matters when it comes to intent and responsiblity of Gryba. He has to anticipate that Eller is going to continue towards the boards.
The fact that Eller turns up-ice also make moot Brendan Prust’s comments that Gryba passed over the close shoulder to go for the far shoulder, thus hitting him in the head. Yes, the head was the principle point of contact, but Gryba made absolutely no shift in his own skating line to make the hit, nor did he raise his shoulder or his arm to make the hit. Eller’s shift in skating line is what caused the hit to the head, and as such the suspension was unwarranted, or at least overimposed. A simple one game ban might have been more appropriate.
When you contrast that with Andrew Ference‘s elbow to the head of Mikhail Grabovski which all of the above happened in the opposite manner, and Ference only got one game when 1. He altered his direction to make contact; 2. He raised his elbow directly into the head of the Leafs forward; 3. There was no apparent injury on the play and 4. Ference has a history of chicken-wing type elbows in the past.
It just goes to show that the discipline is still dished out primarily on the result of the incident and not the incident itself, or the intent involved.
And that’s a damn shame, Mr. Shanahan and the NHL.