A Radical Solution To The NHL's Inconsistent Suspension Policy

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

By Jacob Messing

In 2016-17, the NHL had its lowest numbers of suspensions since the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

The number of suspensions, cumulative games lost, and number of NHL teams that had a player suspended were all meaningfully lower than the previous three seasons.



While there are clearly fewer suspensions than in past years, there is a belief that some of the numbers are skewed due to the NHL’s initiative to clean up the league and eliminate dangerous play.

For instance, some of you are reading this and already have a handful of incidents running through your head that failed to warrant a suspension this past season -- or even past seasons.

One such play is Capitals winger Tom Wilson’s hit from behind on Devils defenseman John Moore on December 31, which went undisciplined.

There are not many clear-cut instances that demand suspensions, but this one comes pretty close. No fan wants to see hockey eliminate body-checking, but hits from behind, such as the one above, have never been legal.

The NHL continues to insist it is erasing danger from the league, and while I’m not arguing that, there could be a better solution to further prove it.

NHL players are worth millions -- their contracts and league revenue say so. While there will always be more players waiting to step up in another’s absence, there isn’t a new Sidney Crosby waiting on the sidelines.

Though he’s one of those players who is either cherished or loathed by fans, the 30-year-old Crosby has suffered a string of concussions during his career, and his long-term health should be growing concern of the NHL’s front office.

Rather than continually handing repeat offenders -- in the true sense of the words, not the NHL’s intricate definition -- varying amounts of time off, the league should filter them out by threatening the teams that own their contracts.

Imagine if the NHL put a system in place that threatened a club’s ability to draft players or spend to the maximum level of the salary cap -- not necessarily altogether but in a way that forced the club to consider the players it signs and for how long.

Of course, every front office already takes this into account, but what if the NHL was to announce that any team with a total of five players suspended or a cumulative total of 20 games suspended in a given season is subject to forfeit its fourth-round draft pick or face a salary cap penalty of $2 million for the following season?

The details would need to be hammered out and a chart of exponentially growing penalties would likely need to be made, but it’s a start.

It would further filter out dangerous players and plays and could even act as a scapegoat for some managers to argue that a certain player is a high risk given his suspension history.

However, the opposing side would say that there are star players who are repeat offenders, but there will always be hard-nosed players who are worth the risk.

One such player is Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who has been suspended four times for 12 games during his eight-year career but has posted superstar numbers over the past two seasons. He was even able to avoid suspension after a dangerous slew-foot on Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall this past season.

Front offices would arguably take a longer look at filling out the roster with other suspension-prone players if they happen to hold an all-star who is already known to cross the line at times.

And naturally, there will always be star players who make borderline plays. But if this radical solution can help weed out fringe players and continue to decrease the short list of goons who remain in the NHL, the league will be a safer place with continually declining suspension numbers.


Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

High And Wide: Washington, Wild, and Woeful Starts

© Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Washington Capitals at New Jersey Devils

By Jacob Messing

The overhauled Arizona Coyotes remain winless through five games, the Buffalo Sabres grab their first win, three Washington Capitals sit atop the scoring race, and the Erik Karlsson-less Ottawa Senators have grabbed at least a point in all five games.

Bauer Motown Classic Brings Future NHL Talent To Detroit

© Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Preseason-Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets

By Jacob Messing

The Furious Return Of Alex Ovechkin

© Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Preseason-Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens

By Jacob Messing

High And Wide: Hot Starts, Hat Tricks, And Humbled Champs

© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild

By Jacob Messing

Winnipeg Jets One Piece Away From Flight

© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Preseason-Winnipeg Jets at Calgary Flames

By Jacob Messing

The Atlanta Thrashers joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1999, and the journey to a serious postseason run has been anything but smooth. In 16 seasons, the organization has relocated, played eight playoff games, won zero, and morphed into the Winnipeg Jets, all while struggling to balance offense, defense, and goaltending.

UNLV Hockey Assistant Coach Injured In Las Vegas Attack

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 3.39.15 PM.png

UNLV hockey assistant coach Nick Robone was shot in the chest on Sunday night during the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and over 500 injured. The 28-year-old was immediately hospitalized and is expected to make a full recovery after a successful surgery. 

20 Predictions For The 2017-18 NHL Season

© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers

By Jacob Messing

It’s finally October, and with the new NHL season set to start on Wednesday predictions are flying all over the place. It’s just a part of coverage, like toothless smiles and trash talk are apart of the game.

Players Question Rule Changes -- And They Have A Point

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports NHL: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings

By Jacob Messing

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg got straight to the point when asked about the NHL’s new rules.

“It's slowing down the game; it's almost mocking the game,” Zetterberg told MLive’s Ansar Khan.

St. Louis Blues And Other NHL Teams Fight Through Early-Season Injuries

© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports NHL: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild

By Jacob Messing

With the puck set to drop October 4 for the new NHL season, a handful of injuries suffered during the preseason may hinder some teams getting off to a hot start.

'If You Ain't First, You're Last': Erie Otters Take Step Back In OHL

Erie Otters Erie Otters Training.jpg

By Jacob Messing

A historic Erie Otters season ended suddenly in late May when host Windsor defeated the regular season champions 4-3 for the Memorial Cup, given to the winner of a four-team tournament played