Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Analysis of Marc Staal Hit On Matt Stajan

In both the posting of the video and the game recap I have stated views on the Marc Staal hit that knocked Matt Stajan from the game with 10:24 remaining in the New York Rangers versus Calgary Flames game, but let me take it a step further here and lay out the full case.  The NHL this year has instituted unanimously instituted new rules laying out penalties for “lateral or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted."  There are those who are claiming that this hit fell under those rules and thus Marc Staal should be suspended.  This Rule is called Rule 48 and reads as follows:

48.1 Illegal Check to the HeadA lateral or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.

48.2 Minor PenaltyThere is no provision for a minor penalty for this rule.

48.3 Major PenaltyFor a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed (see 48.4).

48.4 Game MisconductAn automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.

48.5 Match PenaltyThe Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
In the case of Marc Staal’s hit on Matt Stajan the hit is not lateral or from behind but from in front of the player as the angles on the video clearly show, the player does not leave his feet to make the hit, there is no raising of the elbow to create an intent to injure and the principle point of contact is with the chest of Stajan and carries him further up into the body.  What happened on the play was a defender had lined up an offensive player for an open ice hit just inside the neutral zone and the offensive player assumed there would be no contact so he continued to watch the pass he had just made instead of the ice.  As callous as it might sound the person to blame if one is to be blamed for this hit is Matt Stajan because he was not skating with his head up, which is not to say if he was he would not have gotten laid out by a great hit, but he could have braced himself better for impact.  

I do not know for sure if it makes a difference in regards to Rule 48 that his head was turned to the side as opposed to being down, which is the only point of uncertainty for me. 

I agree with what the league is trying to do in light of the increased rate of concussions and to take the dirty hitting out the game, but concussions, which I would assume is what Matt Stajan will have can happen on clean hits as well.  If Matt Stajan is seriously injured I will feel badly for him, but I will also believe that it was not due a dirty or malicious play on the part of Staal.  If the leagues fines or suspends Marc Staal for this hit then the league might as well outlaw hitting because this is the textbook kind of hit you want a defenseman to make in terms of defending his own zone and doing it cleanly.  This is not Shane Doan or Matt Cooke, or Mike Richards, this was clearly from the front, on the ice and with the arms down and I expect the league to keep their arm down and not call foul as the referees on the ice did tonight.

Original post withe video of the hit and versus team analysis can be found here