Andy Sutton’s eight-game suspension for the high charge he took at Alexei Ponikarovsky of the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday is neither too harsh nor too lenient. While the Edmonton Oilers and fans might disagree, my sense is NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan got it right today.
First, here’s the item from NHL.com:
NEW YORK — Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton has been suspended, without pay, for eight games for charging Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky during NHL Game #404 in Edmonton on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
Having previously been suspended within the past 18 months, Sutton is classified as a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. He therefore will forfeit salary based on the number of games (82) rather than the number of days (185) in the regular season. Sutton will forfeit $207,317.04. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 10:27 of the third period. Sutton was assessed a minor penalty for boarding.
Sutton was suspended for five games on Nov. 1 for an illegal hit to the head of Colorado forward Gabriel Landeskog.
Sutton has missed the Dec. 9 game vs. Colorado and will miss games tonight at Calgary, Dec. 15 at Phoenix, Dec. 17 at San Jose, Dec. 19 vs. Detroit, Dec. 22 vs. Minnesota, Dec. 26 at Vancouver and Dec. 29 at Minnesota. He will be eligible to return Dec. 31 at the New York Islanders.
Here’s a line to Shanahan’s video: video.nhl.com/videocenter/console
Shanahan’s video lays out his reasoning for handing out the eight-game suspension in straightforward terms. I’m not sure, considering the six-foot-six Sutton is a repeat offender — leaving aside he displayed a vertical leap of about a foot in squashing Ponikarovsky — that there’s a lot of room to dispute his finding.
While I was certainly aware Sutton was a repeat offender, notably for his hit on Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado this season and Pascal Dupuis of Pittsburgh previously, I did not know Sutton had been fined or suspended on seven occasions by the NHL. That’s a lengthy rap sheet, even taking into account Sutton’s years of service in the league.
"I think Brendan explained it well in his video, what he thought," Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini said. "He pointed out the fact Andy was a repeat offender, which puts him in a more difficult situation. I think if Andy could take the hit back, he would, but it happened and we’ll deal with it."
The loss of Sutton will mean a longer look at Colten Teubert, who has been taking a regular rotation in Tom Renney’s third defensive pairing for the last two games with Sutton already sitting. While Teubert comes up way short in terms of experience, he is very much the same type blueliner as Sutton, big and physical with a nasty edge, so the job description fits.
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