Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot suffered a gruesome injury on a slash from Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
The slash came with both teams playing four-on-four with 5:22 to play in the first period of Thursday night’s game. After the whistle, Methot confronted Crosby, giving the Pittsburgh captain a shove before taking off his glove to reveal the severity of his injury.
No penalty was called on the play. No discipline will be handed down from NHL Player Safety. Nor should it be.
“His finger is destroyed,” said Sens coach Guy Boucher. “It’s shattered and he’s out for weeks.”
Crosby called the slash accidental.
“I was just trying to get his stick and I think I caught his finger, judging by his reaction and their reaction,” said Crosby. “I’ve gotten [slashes like] those before. They don’t feel good.”
Sens blueliner Erik Karlsson defended the play, calling it unintentional, despite the injury to his teammate.
“[Crosby] puts his stick in as [Methot] is trying to shoot the puck in and unfortunately it hits his finger,” Karlsson said. “It turned out worse than most other times. Plays like that happen all the time, but I don’t think it was intentional or dirty.”
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk took a more aggressive stance towards possible punishment for Crosby during an interview with TSN 1200.
“You do anything that’s almost a certain injury, and I think the only way to do it is you wipe the guy off the map for not one or two games… 10. How about a season for a few of these guys?”
“He takes my guy, I take your guy. That’s my attitude. The guy that creates the injury should be sitting out, watching games for the rest of the season. That’s the kind of attitude I have. There’s no room for that.”
“That’s the only way to do it. You hammer these guys. You take away their money because they all understand money. You simply say, ‘You know what, you’re done for 10 games’ and – guess what – you guys are not going to get even close to the Stanley Cup if it’s an elite player on the other side. There’s no room for it in the NHL.”
Melnyk followed up these remarks with a direct shot at Crosby
“The guy’s just a whiner beyond belief and you do this kind of stuff, I don’t care who you are in the league, I don’t care if you’re the number one player in the league. You should sit out a long time for this kind of crap.”
Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, objected to Melnyk’s comments.
“In my opinion, a team owner who makes a negative comment about a player outside of his organization should be fined for such action,” Brisson told TSN’s Darren Dreger. “It’s worse than tampering and against the culture of our game.”
When the NHL’s Department of Player Safety considers a suspension, they first look at whether the offense is suspendable. If they determine that the action was egregious enough to warrant a suspension, they then consider any injury when calculating suspension length. Just because an action causes an injury — even one as horrific as the one Methot suffered — does not necessarily mean a suspension is justified.
You have to punish the act, not the outcome.
Like it or not, the fact is that slashes exactly like that one go uncalled multiple times in any given game.
Given the high visibility of this situation, along with slashing non-call controversies from earlier this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NHL issue a mandate to its officials to tighten up the standard for slashing.
The current NHL rule around slashing defines it as:
Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck.
“It’s tough for the refs to call hard slashes or whether it’s a love-tap. I can see why it’s difficult for them,” said Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau after suffering a broken finger on a slash in November.
“It’s part of the game. I don’t know if it’s something they need to look at more. I know if guys are starting to miss 4-6 weeks with broken bones, maybe it is something they need to look at a little more. But it’s part of hockey.”
Suspending Sidney Crosby for a rather standard slash that caused an unfortunate injury is not going to eliminate slashing. A tighter standard and consistent enforcement of that standard are the only way to cut down on the dangerous stickwork and prevent another player from suffering the same fate at Ottawa’s Marc Methot.