Brad Marchand was hit with a five-game suspension today after drawing a five-minute major and game misconduct for clipping Sami Salo in the second period of Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at TD Garden.
Marchand, who conducted a hearing via teleconference at 12:30 p.m. with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, tried to plead that he was protecting himself from an imminent check along the boards when he ducked and up-ended Salo, causing him to suffer a concussion when he landed hard on the ice on the back of his head at 18:47 of the second period.
But Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president for player safety and hockey operations, saw it differently and characterized Marchand’s hit as being neither instinctive nor as an act of self-defense but as a “predatory low-hit” by a repeat offender who had been suspended last March for elbowing Columbus’s R.J. Umberger in the back of the head.
He was also fined $2,500 for slew-footing Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen on Dec. 5, but was not suspended.
“As the video shows, Marchard skates toward Salo along the boards,” Shanahan said on NHL.com. “Rather than deliver a shoulder-to-shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo’s knee area, propelling Salo up and over and causing an injury.”
Shanahan cited Marchand’s hit was in violation of NHL rule No. 44, Clipping, which states, “Clipping is the act of throwing the body from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent. A player may not deliver a check in a `clipping’ manner or lower his own body position to deliver on or below an opponent’s knees.”
Said Shanahan: “While we understand that in certain instances a player may duck or bail instinctively to protect himself from an imminent dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive. Rather, we feel this was a predatory low-hit delivered intentionally by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over.
“Further, Salo was not coming at Marchand with great speed, nor in a threatening posture,” Shanahan said. “He does nothing to indicate that Marchand will be hit illegally or with excessive force.
“To be clear, we do not consider this to be a defensive act, where there were no other options available to Marchand,” Shanahan said. “As a matter of fact, this near identical scenario played out 16 seconds earlier where Marchand was able to deliver and absorb a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder check with Salo.
“In spite of the fact that this first hit was a clean play, Marchand shows clear frustration following the hit,” Shanahan said. “While this may have led Marchand to believe that Salo might later seek retribution, it is not a defense for clipping a player.”
Shanahan said consideration was given to the nature of Salo’s injury and to Marchand’s status as a repeat offender in meting out the five-game suspension on the Bruins’ feisty forward, which will begin with Tuesday night’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets. Marchand, who will be eligible to return Jan. 19 at New Jersey, will forfeit $152,439 in salary which will go to the NHL players’ emergency assistance fund.
“While we respect the process that the Department of Player Safety took to reach their decision regarding Brad?s hit on Sami Salo, we are very disappointed by their ruling,” Chiarelli said in a released statement
“While we understand that the Department of Safety is an evolving entity,” Chiarelli said. “It is frustrating that there are clear comparable situations that have not been penalized or sanctioned in the past.”
Chiarelli alluded to a similar low-hit Marchand suffered at the hands of Vancouver’s Mason Raymond in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
“It is equally disappointing that Brad sought the counsel of the Department this past fall for an explanation and clarification regarding this type of scenario so as to adjust his game if necessary,” Chiarelli said. “He was advised that such an incident was not sanctionable if he was protecting his own safety.
“Given our feeling that Brad was indeed protecting himself and certainly did not clip the player as he contacted the player nowhere near the knee or quadricep,” Chiarelli said, “today’s ruling is not consistent with what the Department of Player Safety communicated to Brad.”