Colin Campbell’s Absence No Coincidence As NHL Makes Common-Sense Decision on Milan Lucic for Punch of Freddy Meyer


Colin Campbell's Absence No Coincidence As NHL Makes Common-Sense Decision on Milan Lucic for Punch of Freddy Meyer Milan Lucic will have one more bill to pay than he planned this holiday season, and he won't he getting any extra days off.

And that's a good thing, as the NHL got this decision right.

Amazing what happens when you take Colin Campbell out of the discipline process, isn't it? Campbell, of course, can't rule on any incident involving the Bruins now that his son, Greg, is playing for Boston. That left NHL vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy to handle Lucic's hearing on Sunday.

And just as he came up with a reasonable ruling to suspend Jody Shelley for two games for shoving Adam McQuaid into the boards on an icing call earlier this month, Murphy delivered some sensible justice in this case. Lucic was fined $3,500 for his role in a brawl late in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Thrashers, but he was not suspended.

Lucic didn't deserve to get off scot-free. He did deck Atlanta defenseman Freddy Meyer with a solid right to the head while Meyer was tied up by several other players and officials in the scrum. That earned Lucic a match penalty, which brings an automatic review by the league for further discipline.

Meyer was no innocent victim, however. He sparked the entire melee when he came up high on Lucic with a questionable hit at the blue line. That brought in Andrew Ference, who grabbed Meyer, and everyone else on the ice paired off. Lucic eventually worked his way back to Meyer to land his punch, then punctuated his displeasure with some words and gestures to the Atlanta bench on his way off the ice after being ejected.

The breakdown of the fine ended up being $2,500 for the punch and $1,000 for the gestures. Even if he gave his credit cards a workout for the holidays, Lucic shouldn't have too much trouble coming up with that amount, considering his salary this season is just north of $4 million.

There was plenty of debate after the game about Meyer's hit on Lucic, which Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay called a "good hit" and Bruins counterpart Claude Julien labeled "dirty" and "cheap."

Regardless of which side of that argument you fall on, Meyer's hit was certainly more than Aaron Ward ever did to Scott Walker in the 2009 playoffs. Walker blasted the former Bruins blueliner with a brutal sucker punch in the final five minutes of Boston's 4-0 Game 5 victory in a second-round series with Carolina, but Campbell rescinded the instigator penalty and automatic one-game suspension to Walker. Walker didn't miss any time and came back to score the series winner for the Hurricanes in overtime of Game 7.

That same postseason witnessed Campbell suspend Lucic for a game in the opening round for a cross-check to the face of Montreal's Maxim Lapierre. But no discipline was handed out after Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek broke his stick across Lucic's face late in Game 4 as the Bruins completed a sweep of the Habs.

Given that prior history, Lucic would have been considered a repeat offender if suspended for this match penalty against Atlanta. Instead, some common sense finally prevailed in the NHL offices as Murphy opted not to suspend Lucic for responding to a questionable hit.

The Thrashers will have their chance to exact any further revenge on the ice when the Bruins visit Atlanta on Thursday, a game that's suddenly become a lot more interesting thanks to last week's fireworks and a rare instance of the league not overreacting in its response.

Did the NHL get the punishment right by just fining and not suspending Milan Lucic? Share your thoughts below.   

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