Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. After serving a one-game suspension just last week, Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki could be facing more discipline from the Department of Player Safety. He’ll have a hearing with the league today after his illegal check to the head of Cody Eakin last night. This time, unlike his prior incident, the on-ice officials did penalize him, as Borowiecki was given a five-minute major and was ejected from the game.
Borowiecki’s recent suspension was for an elbow to the head of Urho Vaakanainen, a connection that he claimed was incidental as he was trying to defend his goaltender’s crease. The league, even while accepting that defense, still issued a suspension and stated that it was Borowiecki’s responsibility to avoid the forceful blow to the head. Similar arguments may be made in this incident, as the Ottawa defenseman does little to target Eakin’s head but still ends up connecting with it. The league is putting the onus on the checking player to avoid contact with the head, even if it means avoiding the check altogether.
Given the recency of his last suspension, it’s very likely that the league comes down hard on Borowiecki if they deem the hit worthy of supplementary discipline. As they’ve made clear with Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension, the DoPS does not want to investigate incidents with the same players on a regular basis and will hand out a hefty ban to try and discourage that type of play. Even commissioner Gary Bettman, in his recent ruling to uphold the Wilson suspension wrote:
One true and fundamental test of effective discipline is whether the discipline is of sufficient strength and impact that it has the effect of deterring the Player being disciplined from repeating the same or similar conduct in the future.
While the two Borowiecki incidents aren’t exactly the same, he was also suspended for boarding Tyler Toffoli in 2016 and is now under intense scrutiny. He may need to change the way he plays slightly to avoid plays like this, even if he had no intent of injuring Eakin. On big open ice hits, there is always a chance that the player’s head is a main point of contact, causing injuries the league desperately wants to reduce.