Hmm…What a Surprise?

At the beginning of the season, the NHL was hard enough to watch. Fans were getting bored watching many teams face a deficiency in scoring. Even top stars were being held off the scoreboard for stretches of four or five games at a time. That’s a mute point now. There’s a new cancer rearing its ugly head in the National Hockey League: NHL Player Safety.

There were three different instances of questionable hits in last night’s game one between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. None of which were handled correctly by the referee’s, which results in none of them being handled correctly by the NHL Department of Player Safety either. It’s a sad concept that it’s come to this point, but unfortunately that’s what the NHL is in 2016.

As many of us woke up today, we were given the news that Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Ryan Callahan will not face a hearing for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, Kris Letang. That is absurd.

Video courtesy of: SPORTSNETCANADA

I will give Lightning fans this much. Letang did start to pull up in the corner expecting that Callahan wasn’t going to plaster him for no reason. But Callahan had no intention on pulling up. He drove his elbow to the head of Letang, while Letang’s numbers were exposed for Callahan’s viewing pleasure and knocked Letang unconscious for a good five seconds.

It was huge that he wasn’t tossed from the game. The Lightning had dressed 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. If Callahan is removed from the game, the Lightning only have 10 remaining forwards and have to double shift players. This changes the dynamic of the game, but the referees are scared. They’re scared to change the game and put their foot down.

Do you want to know why the hit on Callahan isn’t even going to get a hearing? 

It’s because Kris Letang returned later in the first period and played the entirety of the game after that.

Since when is a player’s return to a game enough to keep the offender’s punishment to an absolute bare minimum? It’s happened on multiple occasions throughout this season, not only to the Penguins, but all 29 other teams as well. That can’t be the basis whatsoever.

Letang’s reputation has a lot to do with it as well. Kris Letang is no saint and if you think he is, then you’re not a hockey fan. He’s got the worst attitude on this hockey team and has a shorter leash than Jeff Locke pitching in a baseball game. It doesn’t take much to set Letang off and because of that, I have no doubt in my mind that the Department of Player Safety takes that into consideration.

I think the following tweet from the quite Twitter famous account @EvgeniMalkinEgo on Twitter pretty much sums up how the NHL handles bad hits in the league anymore:

Obviously, as every questionable hit, the Kunitz knee-on-knee to Tyler Johnson in the second period must come into question as well.

Video courtesy of: SPORTSNETCANADA

Obviously, you see Johnson playing a puck in the corner and Kunitz coming over to finish off his check. You can make the argument that Johnson turns, but you can’t hide the fact that Kunitz sticks his leg out to make sure he makes contact with Johnson.

It’s a cheap shot and it caused Johnson to leave the game. But yet again, the refereeing crew did not call a penalty on Kunitz for the hit. And Kunitz won’t be suspended if a penalty hadn’t even resulted on the play.

I think it’s assanine for people to call for a suspension on it, anyway. It’s tough to give Kunitz a ban when you clearly see in the video that Johnson plays the puck as he is turning into the hit of Kunitz. Kunitz’s leg comes out and makes contact with Johnson’s and Johnson couldn’t put any weight on the leg before hobbling into the locker room.

And finally, we get to take a look at Ondrej Palat’s boarding call on Brian Dumoulin late in the third period.

Video courtesy of: SPORTSNETCANADA

I actually have more of a problem with this hit than I do the Callahan hit. You can see Palat give Dumoulin the first shove to the back as they reach the goal line. This begins to give Dumoulin more momentum as he’s heading into the boards. Palat proceeds to shove him again which propels Dumoulin head first into the boards. Dumoulin didn’t return to the game, granted there was only 4:46 left when the hit occurred.

Dumoulin laid on the ice for a good while and had no idea where he was when he smacked his head and was helped off the ice. Palat could’ve avoided the hit.

Arguments were made that Palat was shoving Dumoulin from the side, but those are irrelevant. Even if he was, the numbers were exposed and Palat could’ve easily avoided the hit anyway.

It could’ve changed the dynamic of the game and I think that’s a huge reason why the refs didn’t change the 2-minute boarding to a 5-minute major. Because again, they were scared to change the game.

The Penguins were down 3-1 at the time of the call. If it is a 5-minute major, the Penguins are on the power play for the remainder of the third period. Who’s to say the Penguins don’t score twice? All it really comes down to is speculation, but the hit on Dumoulin warranted a major and didn’t receive one.

All in all there was some ridiculous calls made in regards to game one last night. I am even in more of a belief now that it is literally going to take someone dying on the ice during a game to give a suspension worth meaning.

It’s called Directors of Player Safety (DOPS) for a reason. Their name is pretty much self explanatory. They’re supposed to direct the safety of players and protect players (and not just the league’s stars contrary to the belief of some people).

The next time we watch as a player crumbles due to a hit and the game isn’t changed as a result, don’t riot it’s the usual in the league now-a-days. Then just remember that until the NHL actually puts their foot down and hands out a suspension that is going to teach a player not to be a goon anymore, then there will continue to be nasty hits and non-suspensions without a doubt.

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