Columbus Blue Jacket defenseman Erik Gudbranson was suspended for one game by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday. He will miss Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We talked at length about the situation yesterday, and my thoughts haven’t really changed. It’s an absurd outcome that was entirely preventable if the NHL’s officials had just done their job. The hit Gudbranson took from Nick Cousins was violent enough in game action that they called it a major. Why does that change in review?
Kicking Nick Cousins out of the game yesterday, likely prevents any kind of retaliation from Gudbranson or any other Blue Jacket. By making the right call, they’re actually protecting Cousins himself from retribution. They protect the integrity of the game by not allowing it to turn into a clown show – which it nearly did.
Instead, they chose not to call a major penalty, and in the end, as we expected, it’s Gudbranson who will pay the price for their incompetence. The league’s own player safety department somewhat acknowledges that the hit was dirty in their video explanation of the suspension. The quote below sure sounds like they heard his complaint during the meeting, and they even seem to admit some fault here:
"Gudbranson acknowledges that he is seeking retribution for hits thrown earlier in the game. While we acknowledge his frustration, players are not excused from grossly violating league rules in retribution or retaliation for hits thrown on them. Legal or otherwise."
The suspension is basically exactly what I expected. They weren’t going to let him off with nothing, and honestly, nor should they. Erik Gudbranson pummeled Nick Cousins, who cowered and refused to stand up to his mistake. The refs didn’t police the game, so Gudbranson did it himself. I knew they weren’t going to throw the book at him, because somewhere down the line, they knew that they held the empty bag on the original call. The head of the DoPS is a former enforcer himself, who probably would have handled things in exactly the same way.
I also knew that nothing would happen to Nick Cousins with a supplemental review, because, well, the league isn’t out to prove its own officials wrong. Which takes us to the next time these two teams will meet: April 11 in Florida. My gut says that since the league did nothing, we haven’t heard the end of this whole thing. I would not be surprised to see the Jackets come out swinging – especially if they’re still in the Eastern Conference cellar.
Gudbranson will forfeit $20,833.33 as a result of this suspension. Perhaps he’ll be more careful the next time they meet and just hit Nick Cousins right in the numbers. After all, that’s only a two minute penalty.