Anyone who prefers on-ice justice to the official, league-mandated kind of justice can rejoice at what happened Monday night between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers.
On Jan. 10 Oilers left winger Matt Hendricks caught the Florida Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad with a hit from behind. Ekblad returned to the game but wound up in concussion protocol and was forced out of the lineup the following night. He hasn’t played since, though he’s expected to return later this week.
Hendricks earned a three-game suspension for the hit but returned just in time for his Oilers to face the Panthers again Monday. It didn’t take a genius to know what was coming, though it was hardly the Claude Lemieux treatment for Hendricks, who stood tall. Rugged Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, all 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds of him, challenged the six-foot, 207-pound Hendricks. Fists flew just 4:16 into the game. Check it out:
Gubranson nailed the Oilers’ Taylor Hall in the Jan. 10 game as well with a blistering hit and, while that blow was deemed legal, it likely added another layer of bad blood. If you believe in The Code, hey, it was street justice, settled with valor. For those who don’t believe in it – it was unfortunate to learn that a three-game suspension wasn’t punishment enough for Hendricks, who also fought Logan Shaw after the hit Jan. 10, by the way.
A natural question to ask is: why would the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspend Hendricks three games, no more, no less, knowing he’d return against the Panthers and be a violence magnet? The short answer is that the NHL treats every case with the same blank slate and never factors the schedule into its sentencing. If it deems three games the proper suspension length, the suspension will be three games no matter what.
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