Our NHL experts weigh in on Chris Pronger's one-game suspension that will keep him out of Monday's Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals:
Scott Burnside: More reckless behavior
I think the Chris Pronger suspension is both fair and just. The deeper teams go in the playoffs, the value of the games become magnified. So, the fact Pronger will miss Game 4 is a significant punishment for both the player and his team. Many will suggest the punishment should have been more severe, but, in this case, the punishment definitely fits the crime.
This notion that Pronger is powerless to control himself, as though he has some nasty DNA that cannot be altered, is baloney. This isn't a gambling problem or a drinking problem or some other clinical issue. This is a player who simply indulges himself with reckless behavior. Look around the league. Zdeno Chara, all 6-foot-9 of him, was a recent Norris Trophy nominee, but doesn't resort to the kind of behavior that has marked Pronger's play. Neither did Larry Robinson, perhaps the greatest big-man defensemen of all time.
This latest in a long list of similar self-indulgences occurred about two minutes into the third period in Saturday's Game 3. As Dean McAmmond tried to pass the 6-foot-6 Pronger, having dumped the puck into the Anaheim zone, Pronger delivered a stiff forearm/elbow to his head that left the Ottawa forward unconscious.
Last season, Pronger was a hero after leading Edmonton to within a game of the Stanley Cup. This spring, though, Pronger seems to have regressed, and as a result, his actions have jeopardized his team's chances (and his own chances by extension) of earning its first Stanley Cup.
E.J. Hradek: I disagree with ruling
Based on the NHL's current rules and previous precedent, I disagree with the league's decision to suspend Pronger for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. While speaking with the media after making the decision, Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, admitted that Pronger would not have been subject to supplemental discipline if Senators forward Dean McAmmond not been injured on the play. To me, that doesn't add up. If the league wants to take hits to the head out of the game, players need to be penalized on each occasion it happens, not just when someone gets hurt.
In Game 3, there were several instances when one player hit another in the head with an elbow or forearm, yet there was no penalty called and no supplementary discipline. Anaheim GM Brian Burke, who unhappily accepted the league's decision, believed Senators forward Chris Neil should have been subject to a supplementary hearing for his high hit on Ducks center Andy McDonald. During the game, at the moment of the hit, I believe Neil deserved a charging or elbowing penalty for his play, which there was no call on.
I believe Pronger clearly extended his forearm and elbow to impede McAmmond, who had ducked down in an effort to avoid contact and move around the Anaheim defender. Pronger clearly deserved a penalty, perhaps a five-minute major, but I don't think the play called for supplementary discipline. In my mind, this hit was far different than the one Pronger put on Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. In that case, I believe there was premeditation. In that case, he deserved and received a suspension. This time, I think Pronger might be paying a price for his past sins.
Barry Melrose: Suspension was deserved
Chris Pronger elbowed Dean McAmmond in the head. He didn't shoulder him in the head. And when McAmmond got hurt, you knew something was going to happen, especially since Pronger is a repeat offender. And when you spoke to people after the game, most realized Pronger was going to get something from the league.
Some might argue that this wasn't as blatant as the Tomas Holmstrom hit, but an elbow to the head is a penalty in the NHL, no matter how it happened, when it happened or why it happened.
If it was a shoulder to the head, on which Pronger's arm wasn't pushed out from his body, you could maybe then say it was a good hit. Even Pronger admitted as much at Sunday's post-suspension press conference.
I've seen terrible hits when guys weren't hurt, but you see the intent. I've seen little hits, without the intent, when players get hurt and the league hands out suspensions. But you have to take the injury factor into consideration. You can't say it doesn't matter. McAmmond got hurt and the league got this one right.