Suspend him or not: Matt Martin’s elbow on Wild defenseman Keith Ballard

Islanders winger Matt Martin has led the NHL in hits the past few seasons, but his hit on Wild defenseman Keith Ballard Tuesday could land him in hot water with the league’s supplemental discipline department.

Islanders left winger Matt Martin has made a name for himself as the NHL’s annual hits leader for the past few seasons. However, Martin’s hit on Minnesota Wild defenseman Keith Ballard Tuesday resulted in a horrendous on-ice scene and could result in disciplinary action being taken against him.

Ballard had just made a pass midway through the game when Martin attempted to finish a check on him. Ballard turns away in an attempt to avoid it, but Martin’s left elbow follows through and makes contact with Ballard’s head, knocking his head directly into the boards and rendering him unconscious.

It’s unclear whether the injury – which included Ballard convulsing on the ice before he was able to leave of his own volition – occurred when his head hit the boards or when he fell to the ice and his head strikes the ice. But the Wild took no chances with Ballard, sending him to a Minnesota hospital for observation. Martin has been suspended by the league before, but hasn’t faced supplemental discipline in nearly four years and isn’t likely to receive a lengthy suspension. That said, he’s also unlikely to escape this incident without any punishment at all. It meets the requirements for an illegal hit to the head as laid out in the NHL rulebook, and the optics of no punishment after a direct headshot ended in a player’s hospitalization wouldn’t reflect well on the league.

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