I took my time writing this one about Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin and the suspension he received from the league Friday. On the one hand, I understood why they issued it. Yet on the other, it was another glaring problem with the NHL’s Player Safety Department.
I also wanted to make sure I had a more level head after the announcement came down.
So as if there’s no doubt where I stand, here’s the best visual representation of it:
I don’t give a damn that he punched him. He reacted because the league failed the first time to address the issue that provoked Larkin in the first place. That, of course, was the cross check by Jamie Benn which, you guessed it, received no penalty, no review, and no suspension.
So Larkin, who according to head coach Jeff Blashill, spent eight weeks in a cervical hard collar was pissed. The exact quote regarding the aftermath of that hit, in the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James’ article, read as such:
“At the end of last year, Larks got a crosscheck to the back of the neck with enough force that he spent the night in hospital and spent eight weeks in a cervical hard collar,” Blashill said. “There was no penalty on the play, which, that happens. Things happen fast. And there was no suspension.
So we’re straight. Now, it’s expected then, that with the league rules tightening up specifically on cross checking, there would be more whistles as a result. Right?
Back to Blash via St. James:
Then you fast-forward to (Thursday’s) game and they have a player that’s trying to play up the lineup for the first time, and kind of took a run at (Lucas) Raymond on one side, and then comes back over. … He hits him right in the numbers and Lark’s head goes into the glass. At that point, he gets up, there’s no penalty called. He’s thinking, we have to police ourselves out here.”
What it really speaks to is that the league’s enforcement is failing–miserably.
The League is Sending Mixed Messages on Dylan Larkin Ruling
Before the league started cracking down on fighting, players would handle things are on their own. As speed and skill replaced the enforcer, the league was supposed to take care of the problem. Slashing was an issue three seasons ago, so it was whistled more as a result. Cross checking? Same thing. According to this story from NBC back in September, the league would have a “tighter standard of enforcement” when it came to the cross checks.
Both Gord Dwyer and Eric Furlatt, the refs in yesterday’s contest, missed it. Fine. Blashill even said it can happen.
But George Parros, whose job is to enforce the player’s safety, completely whiffed, yet again. Worse, the response from the department of safety was this. WXYZ’s Brad Galli hit it on the head here:
Larkin also didn’t swing wildly. He landed a shot right to Joseph’s face. As he should have. But the “unsuspecting” Joseph hit the unsuspecting Larkin in the numbers and as Galli tweeted, slammed him into the boards.
It’s the second time in six months Larkin has been cross-checked in a vulnerable position.
And while he’s serving a suspension for his punch, which is understandable, neither aggressor received even a look from the league for their dirty shot. The Red Wings, who were up 3-1, would wilt later in the game without their captain and fall 7-6 in overtime.
The Red Wings Have No Choice but to Fight Back
This is what puts it all into a precarious position. The Red Wings have no choice now but to protect their own if the league chooses to not react.
Blashill all but admitted it in his press conference, and just a casual read of Red Wings fans’ social media and man, do they want blood.
There is something to be said for remaining calm and composed, especially with a team like the Lightning who excel at getting under the skin of their opponents while also treading that line of dirty and legal hits.
But when the league fails to take action, they lose credibility and the good will of the teams on the receiving end of cheap shots without penalty.
Detroit and Tampa don’t meet again until March–and maybe things will cool a bit. But the third time they meet, in Detroit, will be some date that stands out: March 26.
What better way to answer back on home ice than 25 years after one of the seminal moments in Detroit hockey history. Expect retribution at some point for Dylan Larkin.
Regardless, the NHL has a problem on its hands. And if it doesn’t get it in order, the Red Wings will have no choice but to take care of it themselves–much to the delight of their incensed fanbase.