AP Photo/Charles Cherney
The poor Smiths. One is trying to stop the ringing in his ears. The other faces a multiple game suspension by Sheriff Shananhan and an angry mob of Blackhawk jersey clad rioters calling for his blood.
Brendan Smith has been called many things: The Next Lidstrom, the Future of Detroit, and now…a goon.
While many Chicago fans saw a malevolent assault in United Center on Wednesday night, what I witnessed was an unfortunate accident. I saw two skilled players battling for the puck while trying to evade each other, only to come together in an ill-fated collision. It was like two strangers meeting in a hallway, trying to avoid contact by darting back and forth in a moronic-like mating dance, and resulting in an unintentional chest bump and muttered apology.
Before every Blackhawks fan heads to Lowes to buy a pitchfork and a tank of torch fuel, please let me try to defend the actions of Brendan Smith. In the spirit of an NHLPA disciplinary hearing, I will list all the charges and the rebuttals.
To start, we have two parties involved: The Plaintiff, Ben Smith, and the Defendant, Brendan Smith (trust me, this’ll avoid confusion).
First Charge: Premeditated Melon Smashing
Did the Defendant plot to injure the Plaintiff?
The Defendant has never shown signs of aggressive behavior in the NHL. True, in the AHL he had racked up the third highest penalty minutes (124) on the Grand Rapids Griffins and had five fights, but was this hostility a trend or a rookie going through growing pains?
It is more than likely the latter, since the Defendant hasn’t even recorded a roughing penalty since playing for the Wings. Currently, his only motivation seems to be playing solid “D” and not pummeling the opposition. Unlike other headhunters in the league (Trevor Gillies and Matt Cooke), he doesn’t seem to possess any intentional malevolence. Devising a bone crushing hit on the Plaintiff seems out of character.
Verdict: Not Guilty
Second Charge: Intent to Brain Scramble
Did the Defendant deliberately try to injure the Plaintiff?
Watch the replay of the hit (limit your “Back and to the Left” jokes, please). The Defendant sees the Plaintiff attacking the zone and skates toward the Winger with the intention to knock him off the puck. He extends his stick to do a quick poke check to prevent a shot on goal.
At the same time, the Plaintiff tries to do a last minute left deke while setting up a toe drag with the puck. He starts to lower his upper body to swerve around the incoming defenceman in order to get a clear shot on goal. However, this causes his head to become directly in line with the Defendant’s shoulder and he ends up getting a Winged Wheel tattoo planted on the side of his head.
Who’s to blame: The Plaintiff for placing himself in a compromising position or the Defendant for not adjusting the hit?
At this point, I’d like to bring in an expert witness: Mike Babcock. Here is his testimony, as reported by the Chicago Sun Times:
…[I]s there any responsibility on the puck carrier, toe-dragging, sliding sideways, to look after himself? Doesn’t appear like there is anymore, is there? You come across the middle, toe-dragging like this, and you get dinged. And I’m not saying that our guy isn’t guilty, his shoulder hit his head, you better not put yourself in those situations I would say.”
Verdict: Not Guilty
Third Charge: Violation of Rule No. 48
In short, the rule states that, “A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.”
Even though it can be argued that the head in this case was not targeted, it definitely was the principal point of contact. Let’s just say that the Defendant pleads, “No Contest” and move on.
So what does this mean for Brendan Smith? My guess is that he’ll receive the mandatory one game suspension with the possibility the missing of the preseason.
All things considered, that’s not a bad thing.
Hockey is a dangerous, fast-paced sport and NHLers need to be cognizant of their actions at all times. Even without malicious intent or premeditation, dangerous hits can end careers and head injuries must to be kept at a minimum.
As much as I believe that last night’s collision was accidental, it was still serious, and Brendan Smith needs to be reprimanded as a warning to all the real goons in the league. If a suspension uphold the integrity of Rule 48 and prevents the death of even one brain cell, then let the Defendant miss a night.
Follow Derek Hansen on Twitter @Hockey_Mouth