Monday, December 9, 2013

Penguins' James Neal Gets Five Games for Kneeing Incident

Penguins' forward James Neal was handed a five-game suspension for his ill-advised knee to the head of Brad Marchand on Saturday, and he really should have gotten more. There is simply no place for a play like this in any sport, as it signifies a complete lack of respect for the opponent and therefore the game itself.

Unfortunately it was one of many over-the-top antics that we saw in the NHL over the weekend.

Here is how NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan summarized his views on Neal's transgression:

"It is our belief after reviewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player. While looking down directly at Marchand Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact was made with Marchand's head."

Shanahan goes on to cite that one of the mitigating factors in the hearing is that Marchand was not seriously injured on the play. That's good news, but I'm not so sure it's a good way to judge what Neal has done. He went out of his way to run his knee into a player who was down on the ice--a total WWF move--and there's simply nothing that can mitigate the egregiousness of his actions.

"I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him?" Neal said following the game. "No, I'm going by him. I don't get out of the way, like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I'm not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that."

Yes, you need to be more careful and get your knee out of the way. Now you are talking!

Shanahan will have a busy week, as he'll also have an in-person meeting with Bruins' Shawn Thornton after he sucker-punched Brooks Orpik in the aftermath of this play, and a phone meeting with Leafs' defenseman Dion Phaneuf after his boarding incident last night against Boston.