The Vancouver Canucks were very outspoken and strongly critical of Bruins forward Brad Marchand after he clipped Sami Salo during the two teams' Jan. 7 Stanley Cup Final rematch at TD Garden.
That hit, which prompted criticism from general manager Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault among others, earned Marchand a five-game suspension.
Now, it may be Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler who has to answer to Brendan Shanahan after Kesler clipped the Wild's Cal Clutterbuck on Monday night in Minnesota.
With less than two minutes to play in the second period, Kesler glided through the neutral zone before going low and upending Clutterbuck right in front of the Vancouver bench. Kesler quickly hopped over the boards onto the Canucks bench, but that retreat was short-lived. He was given a two-minute clipping penalty for the play.
See the hit below.
When you compare Kesler's hit to the Marchand hit, it's tough to get a true idea of how similar they really are. That fact alone illustrates how difficult Shanahan's job can be. However, for argument's sake, here's a look at a couple of screen shots that show the "principal point of contact" to borrow a term from the league's disciplinary office.
"As the video shows," Shanahan explained, "Marchand skates toward Salo along the boards. Rather than deliver a shoulder-to-shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo's knee injury."
If you look at the video of the Kesler hit, he comes from out of the picture to deliver the hit, and "rather than deliver a shoulder-to-shoulder check," Kesler also dips down to deliver the hit, and thus, he was given a minor for clipping — as opposed to a five-minute major and a game misconduct slapped on Marchand on Jan. 7.
Shanahan also went on to say that the Marchand hit on Salo was not a move of self defense, instead opting to call the hit "predatory." It's abundantly clear that Kesler is in no position to be needing to defend himself against Clutterbuck as the Minnesota forward had just gotten done playing the puck ahead off of the boards and looking up ice. If anyone is to be labeled a predator in this instance, it has to be Kesler.
It will be interesting to see what Shanahan decides to do for Kesler. The forward does have a clean record, and Clutterbuck skated away without any sort of visible harm, two of the main criteria that Shanahan uses when deciding on supplemental decision. It's also important to note that Kesler didn't appear to be going back and forth with Clutterbuck in the moments leading up to the hit, as Marchand and Salo were doing before the Marchand clip.
Even with the often inconsistent supplemental decisions the NHL hands down, it may not be unreasonable to think that Kesler will at least be slapped with a fine for the hit. At the very least, Kesler might get mentioned in a Shanahan tweet like when the league's top cop announced via Twitter that Marchand wouldn't face supplementary discipline for another borderline hit against Montreal's Alexei Emelin, but also added that "we don't like [the hit]."
What may be even more interesting, however, is what kind of reaction — if any — the hit gets from the Canucks front office and players. It's probably unrealistic that Vancouver will give Kesler anything besides support, but it's worth revisiting what they had to say in the wake of the Marchand on Salo hit.
Gillis called the Marchand hit "a dirty hit by a dirty player," while Vigneault was even stronger in his criticism, especially after Marchand defended the hit by saying it was self defense.
"What Marchand did there, you could end a player's career doing that and I've never seen Sami Salo take a run at any player in the NHL," Vigneault told The Province at the time. "All I've seen Sami Salo do is play with integrity and play the right way.
"Marchand — this is just my feeling on this — some day he's going to get it. Somebody is going to say enough is enough and they're going to hurt the kid, because he plays to hurt players and in my mind if the league doesn't take care of it, somebody else will."
Vigneault also called on the league to discipline the hit in an effort to get it out and keep it out of today's game.
"Sometimes it takes the league time to figure things out and there's a difference between a good hip check when the player is coming down on you one-on-one with the puck and what we saw Marchand do with his definite attempt to injure. Something needs to happen."
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa chimed in as well.
"They obviously play hard, but they tend to do stupid things," Bieksa said. "The Marchand hit was a pretty stupid thing and I'm sure he'll be getting a phone call for that one. There is no reason for that."
After Monday night, there's also no reason that Ryan Kesler shouldn't be expecting a phone call in the near future.
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