The NHL Department of Player Safety has opted not to suspend Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl for his spear on Chris Tierney, but has decided instead to fine him a total of $2,569.44. In the second period of Game 4, which at the moment of infraction was well out of reach at 5-0, Draisaitl and Tierney engaged in the corner – after which Tierney successfully cycles the puck behind Edmonton net. In seeming frustration, Draisaitl re-raises his stick upwards into the nether-regions of Tierney, at which point Tierney is felled to the ice. Draisaitl received a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The incident can be viewed here.
The NHL Department of Player Safety continues to display why suspensions are so impossible to predict. The only recent corollary which didn’t receive a suspension was Sidney Crosby’s similar maneuver back in March against Ryan O’Reilly. This incident sparked a flurry of criticism against the Department of Player Safety for its seeming inconsistency, although there were many notable detractors who concurred with the league. Stars in today’s NHL undoubtedly need to carve out space for themselves, but this sort of low-blow is generally considered beyond acceptable, gentlemanly bounds. Brad Marchand, less of household name (even though he scored only 8 less points on the season), received a 2 game suspension for a remarkably analogous blow.
Granted, history of less-than-stellar behavior had a definitive role in the Marchand suspension, whereas Draisaitl and Crosby both had clean slates. There is also the undeniable factor that playoff suspensions are rarer and generally far less extreme. Oilers fans will no doubt cheer the fact that the young stud Draisaitl will be laced up for an extremely important Game 5. His 77 points on the season would be even more remarkable if they were not out-shined by the extraordinary glow of his fellow millennial Connor McDavid. In a series which might be franchise-defining, this is the best of news.
But the fact remains that at some point, there needs to be a standard set with a star player. $2,569 is little hardship for professional athletes at this compensation level. Although the explanations by the DoPS have been extremely helpful in trying to convey the league’s perspective, the punishments seem to fluctuate wildly. For now, the roulette wheel of justice spins on.