There is the tendency to believe that NHL suspensions are on the upswing thus far this season. The most recent ban comes with the suspension of Andrew Ference of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s out for three games thanks to an illegal check to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian.
It’s been a busy week for Stéphane Quintal, the new Senior Vice President of Player Safety. Six suspensions have been doled out, commencing last Monday with the banning of John Scott for two games after leaving the bench.
Besides a busy week, it’s important to note that the NHL had previously gone 119 regular season games without a suspension. That’s actually the longest non-suspension stretch since the NHL appointed a Department of Player Safety.
They also went 105 exhibition games without a suspension, which stands in sharp contrast to last year’s exhibition season where there were seven suspensions. And prior to and including November 1 of 2013, there were nine more suspensions.
One of those suspensions found John Scott once again on the block for a seven game suspension after a brutal elbow to the head of Loui Eriksson. Patrick Kaleta had a 10 game suspension. And so on.
This busy week has featured the Ference suspension, a four game suspension to Anton Volchenkov and a two game suspension for Jordan Nolan.
These things kind of ebb and flow. Consider last season, where between the period of November 2 and December 8 there were only three suspensions. That “grace period” came to an end on December 9 with the five game suspension of James Neal. Following that, there were nine suspensions over the course of nine days.
One of those suspensions was a 15 game ban to Shawn Thornton for punching Brooks Orpik.
What can be said for this season thus far is that Quintal is working to find his sea legs in what has to be a difficult job. He’s in a can’t-win situation, as there’s no end of apt reproach regarding some of his decisions, but he’s got to find a way to generate some stability in terms of how the NHL dishes out supplemental discipline.
Is he the guy to walk that line and find a groove? Time will tell. In April of 2014, Quintal was responsible for the provocative suspension of Matt Cooke. He tagged him with a mere seven games after the Wild forward kneed Tyson Barrie and even Don Cherry took issue with the suspension.
Right now, Quintal has to be hoping to level things off a bit. Despite a busy week, suspensions are demonstrably down overall. That might be a sign that the players are starting to catch on. Or it might be a sign that Quintal still needs to find out how to do his job.