Do you think the 10-game suspension for Antoine Vermette was appropriate?
Scott Burnside: If Antoine Vermette of the Anaheim Ducks wanted to avoid a double-digit suspension, he should have speared an opponent in the face like the Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist did to the Minnesota Wild's Jared Spurgeon, earning just a six-game suspension. Hey, officials are sacrosanct, and Vermette crossed a line by whacking linesman Shandor Alphonso after being ticked off that the puck was dropped before Vermette was ready. Maybe the actions don't warrant the full 10-game hit called for in the rulebook, but good on the league for starting there. For me, though, the wildly disparate forms of justice reflected in the Nyquist and Vermette incidents -- especially given that Nyquist's actions were exponentially more dangerous -- reveal a great disconnect in what justice actually means in the NHL. Yes, two different mechanisms for determining punishment -- the department of player safety versus hockey operations -- are involved here, but the outcome that really matters, consistency in disciplining players, is once again sadly wanting.
Pierre LeBrun: It was unusual that the league took so long to rule on what normally is a black-and-white decision. If the on-ice officials rule it a Category 2 infraction for abuse of official in their game report -- which they did after Tuesday's game -- then normally the league would have announced the automatic 10-game suspension the next day. That didn't happen because I believe the NHL Players' Association tried to sell the league on the merits of a shorter suspension. The value of that for the league would have been avoiding the whole appeals process that is now in front of it, with a source confirming Thursday evening that Vermette would indeed appeal. In the end, I think the league chose to stick with the 10-game suspension to begin the process out of support for its on-ice officials. The on-ice officials would not have been on board with a reduced suspension. The question now is how commissioner Gary Bettman rules on the appeal. I think most people feel that Vermette's brain cramp isn't worth 10 games. Mike Peca had his suspension reduced to five games in 2008 for a similar infraction after grabbing a referee. But if you're Bettman, you are no doubt mindful of the on-ice officials' association, too. Tough call.
Craig Custance: This is why the appeal going in front of the commissioner isn't an ideal system. Maybe it would be better to go directly to an independent arbitrator because this puts the commissioner in a tough spot. If he reduces the suspension, it might give the impression that he doesn't have the backs of his officials. I understand officials are off limits, but I don't think this one is worth a 10-gamer, not with Vermette's reputation as one of the league's good guys. He had a momentary lapse of judgment. To me, when the dust settles, Vermette should be sitting five games. It just might be a process to get it there.
Joe McDonald: It was the right call. Actually, I wouldn't have had a problem if Vermette had received more games for his slash. Plan and simple: Don't touch an official. Scotty, you're absolutely right that Vermette crossed the line. The league got it right. Last week Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara told me he always picks up the puck after a whistle and hands it to the linesman "out of respect." At times, players and coaches disagree with the on-ice officials but there is a respect factor that trumps everything else. Vermette was out of line, and the league acted accordingly.