Thursday, April 16, 2015

Subban On Stone: No Ordinary Slash

In Game 1 between the Canadiens and Senators, PK Subban slashed Mark Stone sending the forward to the ice in obvious discomfort. Subban was assessed a major for slashing, which in turn calls for a game misconduct (I wrote about that here during the game because I was lonely).

As a result of the slash, Stone suffered a micro-fracture in his wrist together with ligament damage. Subban was not suspended for the slash.

Slashing is not an uncommon occurrence in the NHL. We see it repeatedly every game. It's part of the game and part of the culture.

Now to the hard part because I'm a diehard Habs fan. I love my Habs. I once pretended Jean-Jacques Daigneault was my father. I also pretended to lift André Racicot's spirits.

Subban's slash was no ordinary slash. At the time of the slash, the puck was nowhere near Subban or Stone. Erik Karlsson had the puck at the Habs blue line and Subban and Stone were in front of the net.

But puck location by itself is insufficient to characterize the Subban slash as crossing the line. Those types of slashes away from the play happen all the time. I was slashed by an old lady at the grocery store today while buying some milk. Again, it happens a lot.

The problem with the Subban slash is that it's more like a tomahawk chop. That together with the location of the puck makes the hit dangerous, reckless and frankly unacceptable. 

Look for yourself:

Subban rears back with his stick and chops down on Stone. This isn't hockey. I'm sorry.

For a Habs fan, Subban's actions are gravely disappointing. This is a person who would have welcomed the captaincy of the Canadiens. This entire incident - from the slash that put his team a man down for 5 minutes to the half-dressed tantrum he threw after being tossed - suggests he still has some maturing to do. This is not how leaders behave. If Subban wants to be a captain one day, he needs to act like a professional.

By way of full disclosure, I am a big Subban fan. Subban is a spectacular and gifted defenceman. He’s a terrific skater, has a great shot, is physical, has great vision and is clutch. In short, Subban is pretty special. I wrote about it here

That being said, Subban can do better - and he will do better.

Now on to the absence of a suspension. For me at least, the snapshot above clearly demonstrates that this was no ordinary slash. Subban's actions, in my view, are suspendable. And let's not get distracted by intention, which is too often misapplied. So long as Subban intended to slash Stone, he is responsible for the harm that follows. That is a basic legal principle.  The other issue of intent - whether Subban intended to injure Stone - is a separate consideration that has the effect of increasing a suspension (and not vacating it altogether).

Subban intended the slash, and by extension, is responsible for the harm that followed - Stone's broken wrist. Yes, a suspension is warranted.

It is not difficult to understand why Subban escaped suspension. The hockey culture has indulged similar behavior in the past. It's part of the game so to speak.

The problem is that it shouldn't be. As a result of a reckless and ill-conceived slash, hockey fans will either be deprived of watching the likely Calder trophy winner play, or best case scenario, will get a watered down version. That's a damn shame, particularly for a team that had an unprecedented and historic run just to get into the playoffs.

The league should be protecting its players from unnecessary injuries.

This isn't good for the game.

And a suspension would have sent that very message.

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