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Blues’ Armstrong not keen on Ian Cole’s suspension but accepts NHL’s emphasis on player safety

Updated 2x at 4:10 PM: The NHL suspended St. Louis Blues defenseman Ian Cole for three games due to a hit to the head of Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, and the St. Louis Blues’ response, a statement from Blues GM Doug Armstrong to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, sums up the ways in which teams tend to respond to suspensions for hits to the head umder Brendan Shanahan’s watch:

I don’t think it was a reckless play…I think it was a hockey play that was legal 12 months ago that’s not legal today,” he said. “I understand the sensitivity on hits to the head and we respect that, but I support Ian in the sense that it was a play that (Abdelkader) coming across the middle has to be aware, and unfortunately he wasn’t.

“We accept the decision because we understand the importance of player safety. I respect the league because I sit in on those meetings and we do say that we want to (eliminate these types of hits), so you have to live with the ramifications. But I don’t think it was an intentful play, or a wreckless play. I just think it was a hockey play that went awry. I understand the league’s position, but I also understand Ian’s position.”

Abdelkader dodged a bullet and was able to return to play on Saturday, scoring a goal in the Wings’ 3-0 victory, and offered a strikingly similar comment regarding the hit to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose (via RedWingsFeed):

“Maybe the hockey gods were looking down on me,” said Abdelkader, following Saturday’s game. “It’s just one of those plays we want to take out of the game. I don’t know if he intentionally went after my head. It’s one of those bang-bang plays. Just glad I could come back and help the team out.”

Cole joins Blues’ teammate Chris Stewart, who earned his own three-game suspension for shoving Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall from behind and into the boards during a game in St. Louis on Nov. 15. For his illegal hit, the Blues’ forward donated $46,621.62 to the players’ fund.

“It’s good to comeback from a hit like that,” Abdelkader said. “I didn’t see the hit, but I definitely got hit in the head.”

Update: Here’s a good reminder as to what Cole had to say about his hit to the press, per the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness:

“I just stepped up,” Cole said after the game. “I think he saw me coming at the last second and tried to cut back inside real quick. I had him lined up. I wasnt going to go high, I wasn’t going to go for the head. I was just going right for his shoulder. He tried to cut back and avoid and he put his head right into my shoulder.”


Update #2: Here’s what Cole had to say to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill about his suspension:

“Obviously, they’re trying to take head hits out of the game,” Cole said. “So you expect every situation like that to get reviewed… Getting knocked out of playing for three games stinks. But (Shanahan’s) got a job to do. I understand that. He’s trying to take head hits out off the game.”

That said, a problem that still seems to exist for the NHL is a lack of consistency in terms of dealing with such hits. For instance, Pavel Datsyuk appeared to get away entirely with a hit to Barret Jackman’s head during the same game. Datsyuk is one the elite players in the league.

On Thursday night, Phoenix pest Raffi Torres clearly appeared to throw an elbow at the head of Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda. Torres received a $2,500 fine but no suspension. Torres is a repeat offender, a player well known for pushing the legal envelope.

Cole, 22, has played in 39 NHL games and had has no such reputation. Yet, he got three games for the hit on Abdelkader. Cole explained it was a play he has made numerous times.

“That read, I’ve made countless times in my life,” he said. “A guy comes through the middle, looking back over his shoulder for a suicide pass, you step up and try to hit him hard. It’s not a dirty hit, not a malicious hit, not necessarily what I would think to be reckless.

“It’s something where I was very aware of what I was doing. Was I trying to target his head? Not at all. I’ve made that read, and I’m sure I will continue to make that same read, throughout my career… Maybe I will try to get a little bit more in front of him and come back, try to hit him right in the chest. But it’s just unfortunate, a couple of inches, a split-second of missed timing. If I would have just caught his shoulder first instead of his head, it’s fine. (The suspension) stinks, but (Abdelkader) is fine, which is good. So all I can do is work hard this week in practice, stay in shape and be ready to go when it’s done.”

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Comments

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I don’t really understand St Louis’ argument here - no one is complaining about the fact that Cole HIT Abby, it’s that he targeted the head.  How is the burden on the hit player to avoid being hit in the head?  If he’d turned or moved suddenly that changed where Cole was planning to hit, yeah, I can see it, but this hit seems like a textbook ‘don’t do it, guys’ situation.

Posted by distaff from Not Nearly Enough Snow, MI on 01/02/12 at 03:11 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I would go so far as to say it was deliberate, having watched the video in slo mo numerous times.  Bottom line is that Cole knew - all NHL players know by now - that the kind of hit where he lifts his elbow into the head of another player is not going to be ignored.  It looked to me like he had time to back off, or adjust, and he chose not to.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/02/12 at 03:54 PM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

That was a scummy hit form the get go.  He approached from the BLIND SIDE and hit him i n the head.  St. Lose fans are saying that Abdelkader “led with his head.”  WHAT?  How weak is that argument?  He got a pass from E-52 and was plying up the ice.  Cole came in off a line chnage from the blind side and tagged him.  Textbook case of an illegal hit.  F*ck Armstrong and his “that was leagl 12 months ago” bullsh*t.  Just own up to the fact that it was a scummy hit and STFU.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 01/02/12 at 03:57 PM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

Stupid typos.

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 01/02/12 at 03:58 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I don’t think it was a reckless play…I think it was a hockey play that was legal 12 months ago that’s not legal today,” he said. “I understand the sensitivity on hits to the head and we respect that, but I support Ian in the sense that it was a play that (Abdelkader) coming across the middle has to be aware, and unfortunately he wasn’t.

Holyfuch, Abber was the man to receive the stretch pass from Ericsson.  Of course, he needs to see the puck land on his stick blade.  As Wings Fan in KC noted, it’s blindside and he targeted the head.  B’Lose fans act like they played hockey; they need to stop lying to themselves.

And then another B’Lose defenseman went flagrantly flying his elbow at Franzen’s head later in the game and just like the B’Lose *#$%@& that he plays for, he missed altogether.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/02/12 at 05:13 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

OH come on now…we all know it’s blatant homerism from Shanny protecting his Wings pals.

You do realize that was sarcasm right?

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 01/02/12 at 05:18 PM ET

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42jeff
The problem is that people will forget that Brendan Smith got 8 games for a hit that wasn’t as blatant as that hit by Cole.
I know it was sarcasm, but most people are not going to realize it.

Posted by teldar on 01/02/12 at 09:43 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

I was figuring 2 games for the hit but don’t think that 3 is too much.  Though I figured he would get some help from the fact that he doesn’t have a history.  No matter how they spin it it was an illegal hit.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 01/02/12 at 10:27 PM ET

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Not a bad hit, just bad timing.  Without a history i’d say one game was enough since it was his shoulder and not his elbow.

Posted by Red Hot Wings from Saginaw on 01/03/12 at 02:15 AM ET

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Maybe I’ve got to look at the Datsyuk/Jackman video again, but I don’t recall Datsyuk hitting Jackman in the head, I thought he hit a bit lower. Help, anyone?

Posted by Bugsy on 01/03/12 at 02:27 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

It wasn’t vicious but it was effective. http://youtu.be/N8SX1ujpgfM

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/03/12 at 02:49 AM ET

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Datyuk’s hit on Jackman (full size 1280x720)

Arguably Datsyuk should have gotten a 2 minute penalty for illegal check to the head because he could have maybe avoided contact with Jackman’s head, but Jackman should have gotten 2 minutes for crosschecking, in which case, Datsyuk wouldn’t have checked him. Chicken meat egg. (Hey, a tasty groaner.)


Interesting fact: rule 48.6 states that “any player who incurs a total of two (2) game misconducts under [rule 48: Illegal Check to the Head], shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays”:

48.4 Game Misconduct Penalty - There is no provision for a major penalty for this rule.

(Oops, looks like they copied 48.3 verbatim.)

Posted by bleep bloop on 01/03/12 at 08:07 AM ET

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I should note that that’s a still frame from the video linked by George just above my post

Posted by bleep bloop on 01/03/12 at 08:08 AM ET

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I have never met a bigger band of douchebag fans online than Red Wings fans.

Bunch of hollier-than-thou idiots.

Posted by Xander Crews on 01/04/12 at 06:01 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.