David Backes’ cross-check on Mark Stuart looked a lot like Dustin Byfuglien’s last week. Will Backes face similar discipline?
Winnipeg Jets fans, please sit down and take a deep breath. Have a sip of tea or beer. Chase it with a Xanax if need be. Bask in Tuesday night’s victory over the St. Louis Blues.
And try not to think about St. Louis captain David Backes’ cross-check on Jets D-man Mark Stuart. It probably reminds you a lot of the cross-check that earned Dustin Byfuglien a four-game suspension last week. But a few crucial differences likely have Backes escaping supplemental discipline.
First, let’s look at the GIF of Backes cross-checking Stuart:
Working against Backes: he comes down at or around Stuart’s neck with a blatant cross-check. That’s a dangerous play.
Working in Backes’ favor: we can’t see the puck from this angle, and we know it’s in the vicinity. Backes might be swiping at the puck. Also, he never drops to his knees during the cross-check (it’s the second blow, after Backes gets back to his feet), so it doesn’t appear he’s applying all his weight to Stuart’s neck.
For comparison, here’s Byfuglien’s cross-check last week:
It’s much worse. The puck is long gone. Byfuglien takes a moment to look at J.T. Miller, then Byfuglien deliberately drives his weight and stick down onto Miller’s neck. It’s in no way a hockey play, a purely predatory act, and a four-game suspension was warranted.
But does that mean Backes doesn’t deserve anything? Well, we can at least say his cross-check was closer to a “hockey play,” as it occurred during a scramble and an attempt to dislodge the puck from under Stuart. Note all the Blues’ sticks working furiously around Stuart. Here’s another angle:
— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) April 8, 2015
So it’s pretty clear this was a play involving the puck, trying to impact the game, far less predatory than what Byfuglien did. Backes didn’t use nearly as much force, either. For that reason, the prediction here is no suspension for Backes. The fact Stuart wasn’t hurt doesn’t actually matter, as that only affects sentencing after the league deems a play worthy of supplemental discipine, but the point is that the play likely won’t fit the league’s criteria of suspendable action.
That said, even if it was around the puck, it was a particularly violent attempt to move Stuart, and at the very least it was an unsafe and reckless play. Backes likely won’t be suspended – but he probably deserves a one-game ban. In no world should that behavior be OK.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin