NHL’s suspension of Daniel Carcillo shows its discipline system is a failure

Now ordinarily I would never compare a sporting event to the real world, but for a moment let’s stop and think about something just for a short while. Imagine yourself walking down a street doing what you do and pretty much just minding your own business when suddenly out of the blue someone comes alone and smacks you with a stick breaking your arm.

Yes, it sounds a tad far fetched, but go with it for a second. You’re just standing there, and a guy comes up and whacks you with a stick. I’m pretty sure you’d expect your assailant to get at least a moderate punishment. Afterward you learn that this is about to be at least the ninth time this person faces punishment for various violent acts, and you’d expect the book to be thrown at him. Any reasonable person would think that.

The NHL has shown time after time that’s not how it works in their world, and they’ve proven that point again on Monday with their six game suspension of Chicago Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo for crosschecking Mathieu Perreault and breaking his arm. A crosscheck, I might add, that took place after the whistle while Perreault was just standing there

This list of Carcillo’s suspensions, courtesy of Puck Daddy, is mind blowing when you consider he’s been in the NHL for just nine seasons.
*Jan. 2015: Six games for cross-checking Mathieu Perreault
*May 2014: Six games for abuse of officials
*Jan. 2012: Seven for boarding Tom Gilbert
*Oct. 2011: Two games, hit from behind on Joni Pitkanen
*May 2011: Two games off-ice actions; engaged in “aggressive behavior and inappropriate conduct” directed at the officials between periods
*March 2010: Two games for an illegal cross-check to the head of David Clarkson
*Dec. 2009: Four games for punch to face of Matt Bradley
*April 2009: One game for a punch and/or butt-end of the stick to the face of Max Talbot off the faceoff.
*Oct 2008: Two games for leaving bench to fight with Ben Eager

It’s important to add this list doesn’t include the three times Carcillo was just fined for his actions and was not suspended.

I think we’ve reached the point where it’s obvious Carcillo doesn’t get it, and will never get it. It’s also obvious we’re at the point where the NHL just pays lip service to actual player safety by not truly taking into account what a player did and has done before. Sure, they say they do, but then the CBA has a time limit on how far back the NHL can go to consider a player a “repeat offender”. Well, in Carcillo’s case he has nine suspensions in nine seasons played. To be honest with you, I’m not sure why they all don’t count. I can’t figure why the NHL or NHLPA would want to mitigate a suspension length just because the player hasn’t been suspended “recently”.

As fans we deserve better from the NHL. We deserve to see the best players playing without the risk of being injured by repeat offenders, and if the NHLPA won’t allow the NHL to suspend players longer than the NHL will have to take it to the next level and punish individual teams for continuing to employ players who run afoul with the rules to the point of facing suspension.

I used to think the NHL should treat its suspensions like Major League Baseball and have teams play a player short on the game night roster, but lately I’ve decided that’s not good enough. Odds are the suspended player they would be short doesn’t play all that much anyway, so it’s no great loss to not have that body sitting on the bench for 50+ minutes a game. What the NHL has to do, if they are truly serious about player safety, is to penalize teams draft picks if players under contract to them have been suspended multiple times over the past five seasons.

Now I’m not talking about a one-for-one deal here where a player being suspended three times in those five season would result in three lost picks, and I’m not saying all suspensions should count against that limit. Suspensions resulting from non-dangerous things shouldn’t count, so suspensions for things like multiple instigator or embellishment minors wouldn’t mean a loss of draft picks even if it’s the same player involved. I’m talking about just dirty plays/match penalties/etc. that result in suspensions counting for loss of draft picks.

I’m also not really sure what such a draft pick penalty chart would look like. Obviously it would start with teams forfeiting seventh round picks first, and if a team didn’t have the pick they were penalized they would have to lose an earlier round pick. I’m thinking then it would either move up to include multiple late round picks or a single earlier round pick, at the offending team’s choice should the situation arise where suspended players would again invoke a draft pick penalty. At some point teams would stop employing players like Carcillo because not only are they harmed in the current season but in the long term as well.

Granted I haven’t thought this all the way through, but neither apparently has the NHL in its current discipline system.


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