Canucks: Does Alex Edler Get Suspended for His Hit on Mike Smith?


Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In Thursday’s win over the Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler hit Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith behind the net, but was it a suspendable hit?

With under two minutes to go in the second period and the Canucks on the power play, defenceman Jason Garrison dumped the puck behind the Coyotes net and Edler proceeded to chase after it. Realizing Edler would get to the puck before his defencemen, Smith made the decision to leave his crease and play the puck. Edler would put a shoulder into Smith and ended up knocking him over. As expected, a massive scrum ensued to the right of the Coyotes goal.

Edler was assessed a five-minute charging major on the play and Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal received a two-minute roughing penalty for going after Edler.

Smith finished the second period after the hit, but did not play the third period due to an injury. He was replaced by backup Jason Labarbera.  It is unknown if the injury was related to the hit or not. He was shaken up earlier in the period after Canucks winger Daniel Sedin slid into him.

Section 42.1 of the NHL rulebook states:

"A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."

Smith was not fair game behind the net and Edler did put a shoulder into him, so the referees were correct in assessing a penalty. Was it worthy of a major penalty? It is up for debate since many associate major penalties with violent hockey plays that results in blood or an injury. However, it is moot now since the major penalty did not cost the Canucks the game and much of the penalty was nullified when Shane Doan took a hooking penalty just over a minute later.

After the game, Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said he expects to the league to look at the hit since a major was assessed on the play. Will they suspend Edler? It wouldn’t surprise me if the NHL surprises us with a suspension.

Canucks winger Jannik Hansen was suspended last month for a hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. Many in Canucks nation felt the contact to the head was incidental and head coach Alain Vigneault felt there shouldn’t have been even a hearing on the hit. The NHL Department of Player Safety felt it was a deliberate blow to the head of Hossa arguing Hansen had “[changed] the position of his arm.”

In the case of the Edler hit, he was going after the puck, but in the end what happened was he put his shoulder into Smith and made no attempt to get out of the way. It also appears Edler made eye contact with Smith, which is an  oft-cited point for justifying a suspension.

The decision to suspend Hansen appeared to stem from Hossa’s history with concussions and the fact he suffered an injury on the play. In this incident, Smith has an history with getting hit outside of the crease and he suffered an injury, which may or may not have been related to this hit.

For this reason, it would not shock me if the NHL decides to suspend Edler for one game. Does he deserve to get suspended? Probably not.

(Last year in the playoffs, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended three games for a similar, but subtly different hit on Smith. It was clear Smith was going to get to the puck first and Shaw [skating in from the blueline] had plenty of time to avoid contact. Edler, on the other hand, did not pickup speed until he is at the goal line after he recognized the puck was going around behind the net.)

What will the NHL pull out of it’s wheel of justice?