The NHL made its ruling today on Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton’s hit on Blues forward David Perron. Two Sharks games will be played without Thornton in the lineup.
Some Blues fans are calling for the hammer to be brought down on Thornton, while others felt it was not that dirty. So, what determines a dirty hit by NHL standards?
… I don’t know. The truth is… well, no one knows. It seems that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and NHL vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy reached into their hat and pulled out the card that read, “two-game suspension.”
Was it warranted? Was it even enough? Let’s break the play down.
Thornton received a penalty at the 3:22 mark of the second period and stepped back onto the ice two minutes later, just as the Blues were skating out of their zone with the puck. He found David Perron streaking near him, and readied himself to stop him if he received the pass from his defenseman. The puck was directed towards him, and Perron mishandled it and the puck went past his stick. Just as Perron is looking down at the puck, Thornton trucks in from the penalty box and rams his shoulder straight into Perron’s head. His noggin jerks backwards as he falls to the ice, initiating a no-holds-barred battle between Alex Pietrangelo and Logan Couture. The key to the play was repeated by Blues announcer John Kelly several times: “He never saw him.”
Perron did step to his feet after a few seconds. A few minutes later, he scored the second goal for the Blues en route to a 2-0 victory.
"I asked the guys who hit me actually, because I didn't know who it was," Perron said after the Blues victory. "Obviously, Joe's not a dirty player."
So what did Thornton, who received a 5-minute major and a game misconduct on the ice, say about the incident?
"I felt like I established myself on the ice," he said after the suspension was announced Friday. "I just braced myself for the hit. He just ran into me, to be honest with you."
A big factor to consider here is the size of the players. Perron stands at 6’0” and Thornton at 6’4”. Perron will come to about shoulder level for the large Thornton, so a hit to the head is inevitable if these guys collide more than once in a game.
Watching the replay, it is apparent that Thornton was probably not targeting Perron’s head. As Thornton sets for the collision with Perron, the puck taps Perron’s stick. Thornton, who received just 17 penalty minutes all of last season, was probably looking to slow down Perron and maybe energize his team with a big open-ice hit.
The only issue with the hit comes when factoring in that Perron did not see Thornton. If Perron’s head was up and facing Thornton, this is not a debate. Granted, Perron should be aware of his surroundings, but the game is so fast that it cannot be expected for a player to know what is coming one hundred percent of the time. That is why I feel that this suspended is warranted.
While the NHL has 0 consistency with their disciplinary actions, I feel that this one was right on the button. Thornton is a first-time offender and the point of contact was a mistake more than anything else. The NHL needs to continue to punish players for their actions and not for the results. Perron was thankfully not injured, but reprimanding these actions for the play itself and not the effect is exactly what needs to be done.
I would say that the NHL should include this in next year’s video release, but it would probably still confuse the hell out of everyone.