VANCOUVER – The Detroit Red Wings are calling for the NHL to come down hard on Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos after he sidelined defenceman Brad Stuart for six-to-eight weeks with a broken jaw.
“If you make a stand hard enough when this stuff happens, this stuff won’t happen,”said Wings coach Mike Babcock as his club prepared to meet the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The incident comes in the first full season when the NHL is handing out supplementary discipline for head shots.
The Red Wings were in the process of complying with a league request to supply it with Stuart’s medical information. Stuart suffered the injury during the third period of Detroit’s 5-4 shootout victory in Calgary on Friday night. The defenceman’s jaw has two displacements but, contrary to Babcock’s expectation after the game, did not need to be wired shut.
Babcock called the incident“really disappointing” and“a needless play.”
“It would have been easier to take his body and not his head,”said Babcock.“(There was) no reason for it to happen. But that’s just my opinion.”
Centre Kris Draper called Stuart’s absence“a huge loss.”Draper added the incident is one of those times where the NHL has to step up and protect players.
“(League officials) talk about head shots,”said Draper.“Well, this is obviously a clear cut one when you break a guy’s jaw.”
Stuart had been averaging 20 minutes 57 seconds of ice time per game and sported a plus-seven record while playing on special teams and a regular shift alongside perennial all-star Nicklas Lidstrom.
“No matter what the suspension is, it’s not helping us out,”said Draper.“That’s the thing. We’re going to lose Stuey for six, eight weeks, whatever it’s going to be.
“That’s a huge blow for our hockey club because of the minutes he plays and the quality of minutes that he plays. But the bottom line is, it’s got to come to a point where these things have got to stop.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard said a replay of the incident was exactly like a video the league sent all teams in a bid to educate players about head shots.
“Unfortunately, someone has to be made an example of (discipline-wise),” said Howard.
General manager Ken Holland said he expects Kostopoulos to be suspended, but declined to say how long he should sit out. The GM questioned the definition of a long suspension.
Kostopoulos could face extra punishment because he is a repeat offender. While playing for Montreal, he was suspended for boarding Toronto’s Mike Van Ryn in 2008.
A Kostopoulos elbow also sidelined Minnesota’s Nick Schultz with a concussion earlier this season.
Draper said the speed of the game should not be used as an excuse. All players skate fast but do not deliberately try to injure. He called for the league to hand out a punishment that shows such incidents will not be tolerated.
“Hopefully, they get it right this time,” said Draper.