Andrew Ference suspended; Keith Aulie recalled

On Monday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Andrew Ference for three games as punishment for his check to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian on Saturday night. Keith Aulie has been recalled to take his spot on the roster. 

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The Suspension


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This is a pretty reasonable consequence of a check to the head in the modern NHL. The league has been taking widely-publicized action to try and remove headshots from the game. Given what we know about concussions and the long-term impact of sustained blows to the head, that’s entirely commendable in my view. The same things that Scott Stevens was applauded for over his career are seen as over the line now, and that’s a healthy progression for the league.

So Ference’s shot on Kassian, which would have been a perfectly legal a decade ago, now results in a three game suspension. Given Ference’s history, this could have reasonably been longer, but the fact that Kassian stayed in the game and that this wasn’t a blind side hit both worked in favour of the Oilers’ captain.

Kassian certainly has no cause for complaint as to the outcome, given that he only got three games for putting Brenden Dillon headfirst into the boards, a brutal shot which came in the same season in which he was earlier suspended for breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick.

The Ramifications

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With Nikita Nikitin on injured reserve and Brad Hunt clearing waivers on Monday, the Oilers have recalled Keith Aulie from Oklahoma City; he’ll join Oscar Klefbom who was previously brought up from the minors. The recall may or may not be necessary; the Oilers’ Tom Gazzola notes that Nikitin was practicing on the power play Monday, and we’ve already seen his ability to come back quickly from injury.

The pairings are anyone’s guess, given the status of Nikitin; the personnel at the Oilers’ disposal are as follows:

  • Left side: Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, Keith Aulie, possibly Nikita Nikitin
  • Right side: Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry, Mark Fayne

Assuming Nikitin can’t play, my guess would be that the shutdown duo of Marincin and Fayne stay together, that Klefbom joins Schultz (who he played with in 2013-14 and in training camp) and that Aulie gets Petry as a partner – that last unit is a primarily defensive pairing and Petry can be counted on to do most of the puck-moving.

If Nikitin can go, on the other hand:

The exact pairings are less important than the opportunity this represents for both Klefbom and Aulie. By all accounts, Klefbom has been excellent early down on the farm and a strong showing here could mean that the Oilers clear room for him to stay. Hunt’s demotion means that there is also officially a press box job open, and though Aulie lost that job in training camp he now has an opportunity to reclaim it.

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  • sportsjunkie007

    Ference deserves to be punished for hitting Kassian like that. I say that we force him to eat steak and drink beer for the entire term of his suspension. If I ran into him today, I’d certainly buy him lunch.

  • WeridAl

    Really stumped on this one, debatable if Aulie has been the worse D with the Barons. Must be getting the Marlie special treatment. If fans thought Hunt was bad, watch out for this train wreck.

    • WeridAl

      Hey, we Oilers’ fans can breathe a sigh of relief – the cavalry has arrived – Aulie and Acton. Pffft. PLEASE let me eat these words after tomorrow’s game – tho I doubt it.

  • I generally detest the cheering on of players getting (potentially) hurt in any sport. Unless it’s Kassian. Since his jeering of Gagner wearing the shield, I’ve waited to see any Oiler introduce something more than a dirty look his way.

  • WeridAl

    I know the coaching staff know more about these things than I do but I was looking forward to seeing a Klefbom/Schultz pairing.

    I was quite impressed with Klefbom last season but looking at the 6 with Nikitin, then considering Ferrence isn’t going be sitting, how can they keep Klefbom up? I guess it’s a nice problem to have.

  • Rdubb

    I am in all honesty very stumped by the suspension to Ference, the reason being was explained in the above article; Kassian only got 3 games for driving someone into (through is a better word) the boards, and that after being a “repeat offender” & already having served a 10 games earlier…
    And, I saw the hit on TV, & then again on Sports Centre, and I surely didn’t think that Ference hit his head directly. I saw no “jumping” motion & Ference must be a good 4 or 5 inches smaller than Kassian (aka stick swinger)…

  • Joy S. Lee

    I’m pretty much a pacifist, but I could watch that replay over and over and not get tired of it. Sort of like a favorite movie with a super happy ending. It just puts me in good spirits. Sucks that we lost the game, but thanks for standing up and doing what should’ve been done a year or so ago, Andrew Ference!

    Whose turn is it to take evolution back to its’ roots, when we play those guys with that cro-magnon again? Volunteers welcome, but since that ape may not be aware of the invention of the wheel, maybe the Wagon line could appropriately target the neanderthal as a group?

    While it may not be proof of ufo’s or aliens, if Kassian were to somehow end up with a severely broken jaw, it would unequivocally prove the existence of Santa Claus and happy endings. Is it too early to put this on my Christmas list right now?