Blue Jackets' Wisniewski gets 11-game ban
It was the latest and most severe in a recent series of suspensions under the watchful eye of NHL senior vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan.
On Monday, the dean of discipline announced the NHL has suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman James Wisniewski for the remainder of the pre-season — three games — and the first eight games of the regular season for an illegal hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck during a pre-season game on Sept. 23.
The incident occurred just after the horn sounded to end the third period when Wisniewski delivered an elbow to Clutterbuck's head. He was assessed a minor penalty on the play.
For the infraction, the defender will lose $536,585.36 in salary. The money will go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
Shanahan explained his decision in a video on NHL.com, describing Wisniewski's hit as a direct violation of Rule 48, which does not permit hits where the head is the principal point of contact.
"Since Clutterbuck never has the puck and time has expired," explained Shanahan, "He should have no reason to believe he would be checked at this moment and is therefore defenceless."
Shanahan also outlined the importance of Wisniewski's classification as a repeat offender due to four suspensions since March 2008. He also noted the fact it happened after the play ended as well as the intentional targeting of Clutterbuck's head.
Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel said he's trying not to dwell on the past and instead trying to look forward, but doesn't necessarily agree with the suspension.
"I found out about it between periods. It was a tough one to swallow," Arniel said after the Blue Jackets' game at Washington on Monday. "Obviously, the league has a mandate, and they're trying to really set a tone here early on in the season, and it was harsh. It was very harsh.
"It was a lot harsher than I was expecting, but there's not much we can do about it. We've got to move forward — they've made their decision. We've already put our best foot forward when it came to our side of the story, and obviously the league felt that, being a repeat offender, a blow to the head, that was the call that needed to be made."
Wisniewski will have to sit out pre-season contests Monday night against the Washington Capitals, Thursday versus the Minnesota Wild and Friday at the Carolina Hurricanes.
His regular season ban begins on Oct. 7 when the Blue Jackets host the Nashville Predators, and continues Oct. 8 at Minnesota, Oct. 10 against the Vancouver Canucks, Oct. 12 for a clash with the Colorado Avalanche, Oct. 15 in Dallas against the Stars, Oct. 21 versus the Detroit Red Wings and the next night in Ottawa. He'll be eligible to get back on the ice against the Red Wings Oct. 25.
Earlier on Monday, Shanahan dropped the hammer on Minnesota Wild forward Brad Staubitz and gave him a six-game suspension.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Jody Shelley received what is now the second-longest suspension levied by Shanahan, a 10-game ban including five regular season contests.