Dan Carcillo will return to the Rangers this post-season after all, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has ruled to reduce Carcillo's suspension from 10 games down to six.
Carcillo is eligible to return for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final.
The reason for the change has to do with the appropriate application and interpretation of the rule book. Originally, Carcillo was levied with a mandatory 10-game suspension as spelled out by Rule 40.3:
40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II - Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.
Carcillo did not intend to injure Driscoll, but no doubt applied a frustrated physical force to break free. This rule can apply, depending on how you read it and how you see the play.
But as Bettman ruled, Rule 40.4 is more appropriate in this situation:
40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III - Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.
The difference between the two is that 40.4 clearly defines a player becoming physical with an official for the sole purpose of breaking free. In his ruling, Bettman also pointed out there is no history of ill-will between Carcillo and linesman Scott Driscoll, so it's more a heat-of-the-moment struggle than a planned or probable attack.
Personally, I'd rather the NHL have stuck by the original 10-game suspension, given Carcillo's track record and reputation. But Rule 40.4 can be interpreted as the better fit for this situation as well - and in that case, it's a good thing that the league didn't take the easy road and settle on the minimum three-game suspension. Getting soft on interference against the officials cannot be an option.
Still, had this happened during the regular season, it would have been even longer, according to Bettman:
"In reaching this conclusion I have taken into account that the suspension will have been served during the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final. While there is no precise formula that places a "premium" on playoff games, I note that the length of the suspension here might well have been longer had it involved regular season games."
So don't worry, hockey fans, you'll be able to see Carcillo again this season. Whew.
Again, this is the incident in question. Understanding that Driscoll did nothing wrong in the situation and handled it as an NHL linesman should, how would you have ruled?