Mark Scheifele should be suspended because he decided that the best thing to do when frustrated was to make a late, dangerous, predatory hit to the head on an unsuspecting Jake Evans. It was an ugly end to the game that was unnecessary and in an ending that should result in a long suspension if the NHL and player’s union actually cared about player safety. But they do not, so expect Scheifele to get a game or two at best.
The issue is this is not an accidental hit. I do not care that Scheifele is a “good guy who doesn’t have a record” or whatever your excuse for the play is: he did not have to make the hit and therefore should not have made the hit. Hitting in hockey is about getting the puck. Scheifele did not care about the puck. He was upset after being targeted in scrums all game. It almost seemed as though Ben Chiarot knew he could throw Scheifele off his game by targeting him in scrums because Chiarot knows what gets to Scheifele. And if he did target Scheifele in a condoned part of the game to throw him off, that normal.
Scheifele’s reaction was completely out of character, but that does not mean he should not be punished. You cannot say “well, he has never stabbed someone before so this time we will only fine him” when someone stabs someone. It is an insane idea to think that just because someone has never done something before means that they should get off with a lighter punishment this time.
Elliotte Friedman wrote about the position the NHL is in today with Scheifele having a hearing about the hit. This iteration of the Department of Player Safety seems to have the greatest track record of players getting hearings without suspensions, so the hearing does not mean that he will be suspended. However, I do think it will help the series stay clean if he is.
I also have a slightly controversial thought: it was clear that Scheifele was losing his cool after he was being targeted in scrums. Paul Maurice should have benched him not as punishment, but because he was not in the right space to be the player he needed to be. Sometimes you need to take someone out of the situation before they have an unexpected response then leaving them in there to give that response.
Joel Edmunson’s Comments
After the game Joel Edmunson made some comments that will only throw fuel on the fire in the series.
Outside of how I would interpret those comments, I do not think a player should be saying that because of the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident. I think Edmunson is saying they’re just going to keep going at him, but he could be saying that they want to retaliate in full which is absolutely not okay and he does need to be talked to by the league as well. But this is what happens when you have a sport which prides itself on frontier justice. You have players thinking it is their job to police on the ice because the league does not do an adequate job off the ice. The NHL does need to step in and talk not only to Edmunson, but everyone involved to calm the waters.
No Hospital Visit
Last night it was reported that Jake Evans had not gone to hospital and instead was back at the team hotel. While this means he has no catastrophic injury, it does not mean that all is well. Manitoba hospitals are completely overwhelmed right now and the Montreal Canadiens traveled with their full medical staff including team doctors. It was probably decided that it would be better to avoid taking him to hospital if possible and instead observe him at the hotel overnight and either have him travel back to Montreal or do the scans today at a place like Pan Am Clinic. It is good that Evans didn’t need the hospital, but that doesn’t mean that he is close to being in the clear.