Congratulations, Edmonton Oilers fans, your dismal season is about to get worse. It was announced today that Taylor Hall will miss the next two games after kneeing the Minnesota Wild‘s Cal Clutterbuck with only a few minutes left in last night’s loss to the Wild.
The collision at center ice was pretty vicious and arguments can be made as to whether Hall should have been suspended or not, or whether the suspension he received is too lenient or too harsh. My status as an Oilers blogger aside, I think the league got this one wrong, but I can sort of see why they did what they did. If he was going to be suspended anyway, two games is fair since he has no prior history of suspensions or questionable plays. But whether he should have been suspended is debatable.
In the video that Brendan Shanahan used to explain the league’s ruling, he noted that, “at no point does Clutterbuck control the puck, have possession of the puck, or have any reasonable expectation of contact in this situation.” This is odd because the puck comes right to Clutterbuck from off the boards, and although he misses it with both his stick and his skate as he attempts to get control of the puck, he doesn’t give up on the play. So while Shanahan’s assessment is technically correct, it is not as though Clutterbuck and Hall were 50 yards away from the puck when the hit took place. It was reasonable to assume he could get control of the puck when Hall made the decision to lay into him.
The comment about reasonable expectation of contact is the most misguided portion of Shanahan’s assessment. Whether cleanly or otherwise, Clutterbuck is one of the league’s most prolific and feared hitters. It’s what he does best, so to suggest that he somehow could have been unaware that Hall and Theo Peckham were closing in on him as the puck came towards him, especially considering that he looked right at them both, is preposterous. He didn’t exactly have his head down like a rookie who doesn’t know what’s coming, but he did choose to assume that Hall wouldn’t try to check him off the puck in that situation if he managed to get control of it. Clutterbuck assumed wrong, just as Hall assumed wrong that Clutterbuck would try to avoid his hit.
This is far from the most egregious hit the league has ever seen, so two games is definitely the most he should have received. Hall didn’t pick the best angle to come in from to try to make the hit, so it looks like he was targeting Clutterbuck with his knee, but at the same time Clutterbuck could have done more to avoid Hall’s check. I don’t completely agree with the suspension, but there is enough gray area here that I can understand some of the league’s logic, especially since Clutterbuck did get injured on the play. Oilers fans might not like it, but a two-game suspension is a reasonable price to pay for what happened here.