According to reports, Jackets forward Blake Comeau has been suspended two games and will forfeit over $10,000 for his hit on Brendan Smith in last night’s game against Detroit. The hit and an explanation of why it was a dangerous example of boarding can be found here. Earlier this season, in January, Jackets forward Derek MacKenzie was suspended three games for a boarding hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, which can be found here. As these videos explain, both MacKenzie and Comeau were suspended because leading up to the hit they were able to see the other player’s back and numbers, and the other player did not turn or move suddenly while chasing the puck. That makes for a dangerous boarding hit, and in both cases lead to suspension.
The reaction from fans is twofold: some say the suspension is a fair punishment for Comeau, while others say that he should be given just a warning since he is not a repeat offender. I tend to agree with the latter. The most important fact is that Smith was not injured on the hit. Since there was no injury, I don’t think there is much need to go straight to suspension. If Comeau had previously had hearings with the NHL Player Safety Board for hits like this one, then I could see suspending him. But he hasn’t. And if Smith was injured, suspension might be more necessary, but he wasn’t. I think there could have been a bit more leniency from the NHL on this hit.
Different from Comeau’s hit last night, when MacKenzie hit Ekman-Larsson in January there was injury. Ekman-Larsson left that game and did not return, suffering a concussion on the hit. When there is injury involved in the play, a suspension is a lot more likely to occur than when the player hit is not injured. In Comeau’s case, Smith was not injured, so perhaps a suspension is too much.
Those who say suspension is fair for Comeau point to one more difference between the MacKenzie and Comeau hits: Comeau was assessed a penalty during the game. As a result of the hit on Smith, Comeau was assessed a two minute minor penalty for boarding. MacKenzie’s hit on Ekman-Larsson received no such penalty. Clearly, the refs in the game against Detroit recognized that Comeau’s hit was a dangerous one, and ruled it as such. If MacKenzie was given a suspension for a hit that received no penalty, a hit that did receive a boarding call is more likely to receive a suspension following the game. And that is exactly how it turned out for Comeau.
Fans on both sides of the argument point to Brandon Dubinsky‘s hit on Rob Scuderi from last season as an example of how boarding should be handled. That hit can be seen here. Dubinsky was given a minor penalty for boarding in this case, but was only given a fine and not suspended. As this was Dubinsky’s first time coming under review for a hit like this, the league didn’t see fit to suspend him, and only fined him. Many say that is what should have happened with Comeau. However, if you watch Dubinsky’s hit, it happened fast. He came in on Scuderi quickly, and didn’t have much time to avoid hitting him or lessen the impact. Also, Scuderi didn’t have his back and numbers directly visible to Dubinsky. In Comeau’s case, he had clear view of Smith and followed him for an extended amount of time before hitting him into the boards. He could have avoided it, but didn’t. I think Comeau’s hit was much more dangerous and purposeful than Dubinsky’s, and that is why he was suspended.
What do you think? Was Comeau’s hit suspension-worthy?