The NHL announced Thursday that Ducks forward Evgeny Artyukhin has been suspended for a play that occurred in Wednesday night’s game against Dallas. Artyukhin is ruled to have slew-footed Matt Niskanen while hitting him into the boards. No penalty was called on the play but Niskanen did not return to the game and was disoriented after the play.
If you’d like to see video of the hit, click here. Any hockey fan, or non-hockey fan for that matter, can see that this is a terrible decision by the NHL. Not only was there no penalty on the play, but the referee was standing literally 20 feet from the incident with a clear view. Neither of the referees saw anything dirty or illegal and, quite honestly, it does not deserve a suspension.
This isn’t just Ducks bias, either. I’m all for protecting players on dirty hits and from elbows to the head but this wasn’t anything like that. Artyukhin clearly leaned in with his shoulder and followed through on the hit. Niksanen was unable to protect himself from his head hitting the ice and suffered some sort of injury, most likely a concussion, and I have a feeling that’s what the deciding factor was.
I’d really like to see what video angles the NHL looked at to decide on this suspension. The ones in the clip above certainly do not warrant a suspension, though you can see Artyukhin’s right leg moving towards Niskanen’s. But again, the referee was right there, and although he was getting out of the way of the play, he was still watching it develop.
But let’s play the Devil’s advocate and say Artyukhin did slew-foot him. Does that warrant a three game ban? I would say one game, or two at the most, particularly for a play on which it was not intentional. Artyukhin does have a history of suspensions as you can read about here, but there was no intent and the decision to suspend him is very questionable. The Ducks have now lost some physicality for the next three games, something the team barely had and couldn’t afford to lose any more of.