The first round the 2018 playoffs may be almost over, several games are still being talked about because they were either fantastic to watch, heart-breaking to look at, or contained the most controversial calls hockey fans have seen in a while. In the first round alone, there were four suspensions handed out to different players, and fans, general mangers and NHLers are still not over the controversy.
Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty's one-game suspension was the first of several in the first round for a hit to the head of an opponent. Toronto's Nazem Kadri got three games and Winnipeg's Josh Morrissey and Nashville's Ryan Hartman got one game each. Washington's Tom Wilson and Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov were among those didn’t have to face consequences.
Doughty still can’t believe he got a one-game suspension for his hit on Vegas Golden Knights forward William Carrier.
"I saw four hits last night that deserved more than that," the star defender said to the Canadian Press. Kings head coach John Stevens added: "As long as I'm on the earth, I'm going to agree to disagree with that decision."
There were also loads of controversy surrounding the non-calls that were made, as many pundits believe the hit that Kucherov delivered to Devils’ Sami Vatanen was quite similar to Doughty’s. Vatanen suffered a concussion and a facial laceration on the play.
And so, with all the criticism and accusations, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decided to address the situation. Without, of course, giving a clear explanation on what took place or how the decisions were made.
The league recent video on recent suspensions emphasized that an illegal check to the head concerns a player's head being the main point of contact, not the first point of contact. Based on experience, the league said, a player's head snapping back on these kinds of hits indicates significant head contact. They were hoping it would stop fans’ accusations of the reviewing process.
"Sometimes we get accused of splitting hairs, but that's exactly what they have to do," Bettman said. "I think he's reached the appropriate conclusion when it's been a hockey play that doesn't transcend the rules and I think he's been appropriately punitive in cases where it warranted it. There's never going to be a shortage of critics of what they do."
Bettman does not have a say on suspensions because any appeals need to go to him if a player chooses to use it. He does look at suspension videos before they are issued.
"I watch as a fan to make sure they make sense," Bettman added. "I want to make sure the videos we send out are clear."
"I think player safety as a whole has done an extraordinarily good job of changing the culture. We have players not making certain types of hits anymore. We have players who are more accountable for their conduct and understand it and I believe that they've been consistent."