Duncan Keith received a five-game suspension from the NHL for his elbow to the head of Canucks winger Daniel Sedin, which should allow him to be well rested for the playoffs when the workhorse Chicago Blackhawks former Norrs Trophy winning defenceman returns to the lineup with two regular season games to go.
Just when or if Daniel Sedin returns this season from the concussion-like symptoms he suffered as a result of the vicious hit by Keith that appeared on video to be deliberate is anybody’s guess. Sedin, last season’s NHL scoring champion and the Canucks leading goalscorer this season, returned to Vancouver on Thursday and is being assessed by a variety of medical specialists. It’s unknown how long he will be out.
Wheteher the suspension is too harsh or too soft depends on who you’re talking to. Certainly, five games isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop the next player from taking out another of the league’s stars and it was a missed opportunity to send a message.
NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan delivered the suspension ruling on Friday afternoon after a telephone hearing with Keith. There was some confusion about Keith’s hearing with Shanahan. On Thursday it was reportedly to be done on the phone, which means that any suspension can be no more than five games. But later, in a highly unusual turn of events, Keith was asked and agreed to waive his right for an in-person hearing, meaning that the suspension could be greater than five games. But Shanahan ended up giving him the five games.
Shanahan called Keith’s hit “reckless, dangerous and caused injury.” But he stopped shot of saying the hit was intentional. He also said Keith’s record over nearly seven NHL seasons – which includes no suspensions and one fine – was taken into consideration.
Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman delivered a prepared statement from the club:
“We respect the league’s decision. At this point, we’ve got to look forward to securing a playoff spot and the highest seed possible. That being said, our primary concern is Daniel’s health and well-being. We’re looking forward to him having a full recovery and returning as soon as he can.”
Gilman said there was no update on Sedin’s condition as of Friday.
Keith’s late-season sabbatical – though he can still practice with his team – will be costly. He will lose $149,688 in salary, which will go to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund.
Keith delivered the controversial blow in the first period of a game in Chicago on Wednesday. Sedin was along the side board and nowhere near the puck when Keith skated at him and hit him in the face with his right elbow. Keith received a minor penalty for elbowing on the play. Sedin played a shift on the ensuing power play, but then left the bench for the dressing room with Canucks medical trainer Mike Burnstein.
Keith, one of the league’s top defencemen, was on the receiving end of a hit from Sedin earlier in the first period. Sedins’ shoulder appeared to make contact with Keith’s head as he checked him into the side boards. No penalty was called on the play.
Following the game, Daniel’s twin brother Henrik accused Keith of threatening his brother before he delivered the elbow. Keith denied the allegation and said he had no intent to hurt Sedin on the play.
Henrik said on Friday morning before the Canucks flew to Denver, that he had spoken with his brother when he’d arrived home in Vancouver on Thursday night.
“I talked to him last night when he landed,” said Henrik Sedin. “He started to feel a little bit better, but it’s tough to say. He still had the headaches. But it wasn’t the same kind of grogginess or dizziness. But who knows, sometimes you feel good for a few days and then it gets worse.”
Henrik should know. It was Daniel’s first concussion, but Henrik suffered one when he was a 17-year-old playing junior hockey in Sweden.
“Yeah, I had one back in Sweden, back then the mindset was different than it is now,” said Henrik. “I played two days later.”