In a season where penalties are down, there has been a surprising amount of newsworthy fines and suspensions early on in 2017-18. The unfortunate thing for the NHL is the only common theme between these instances of league punishment seem to be inconsistency and a lack of sense.
Three players – Steven Stamkos, Kevin Hayes, and most recently Matt Dumba – have been fined $5,000 apiece this season for water squirting. It’s not exactly a lethal offense, but is probably worthy of a minor infraction. Except, Alex Killorn received the same $5,000 fine in the same game as Stamkos’ and Hayes’ water fight for viciously jabbing Hayes until he received a slashing penalty. J.T. Brown and Steven Kampfer then riled up the benches with a long, intense fight and received no additional penalty minutes outside their matching majors and no fines. In a separate instance the other night, Patrick Kane also received a $5,000 fine. His offense: this two-handed swinging slash on Nick Ritchie which could have been much worse had it landed cleanly.
The curious thing about all of these fines is that they are the maximum under the NHL CBA. This came up earlier in the season as well, when Robert Bortuzzo’s received the max fine of just over $3,000 for pinning down and repeatedly cross-checking Brock Nelson. So in summary, water squirting has been a fine-able offense three times this season, and for the same maximum amount as slashing and more than the maximum amount for cross-checking.
Then, there are suspensions. The ten-game ban for perennial bad guy Radko Gudas was well-earned, while the ten-game suspension for leaving the bench handed out to Luke Witkowski is a tried and true policy. Yet, Witkowski was responding to this jab from Matthew Tkachuk which more or less also happened off the ice. For that offense, Tkachuk received only a one-game suspension. As minor a “spear” as it might have been, Tkachuk still made contact with a player off the ice, but the NHL thought Witkowski stepping back on the ice to have words with Tkachuk was ten times worse? Tkachuk was back in the spotlight the other night, drawing a four-game suspension for Gabriel Landeskog, who NHL Player Safety even acknowledged was not intending to hurt Tkachuk, so much as get him away from the puck.
On it’s face, the NHL’s fines and suspensions – a product of both the league and NHLPA – seem inconsistent at best. But what say you? Do you think these are isolated incidents? Or a pattern of inequitable punishment?
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