CALGARY - Andy Sutton must have a sore forehead today. You know, from where the NHL keeps throwing the book at him.
Just a month after getting a five-game suspension for his open-ice hit on Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, Sutton has been sentenced to eight more games for last Wednesday’s leaping head shot on Carolina’s Alexei Ponikarovsky.
“Andy was a repeat offender, which puts him in a more difficult situation,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “He’s pretty disappointed. If he could take the hit back he would, but it happened and he’ll deal with it.”
Sutton, suspended indefinitely after the latest incident, already sat out one game before Saturday afternoon’s telephone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Saturday evening’s game with Calgary makes it two down and six to go.
By the time he is eligible to return on Dec. 31, he will have played 16 games and been suspended for 13.
And he’ll have to be skating on egg shells because if he steps outside of the law again there could be damning consequences.
“He’s an aggressive player, he’s a big man, he’ll just have to find a way to make sure that he’s aware of the way we’re assessing those types of hits,” said Tambellini. “He’ll be fine once he gets back.”
In explaining his decision, Shanahan said the six-foot-six, 245-pound Oilers defenceman “left his feet and launched himself into Alexei Ponikarovsky. He leaps into the air making contact with Ponikarovsky’s head, while propelling it into the glass.”
While acknowledging that most players’ feet leave the ice a little when they deliver a hit, he called Sutton’s hang time “excessive.”
Shanahan arrived at the eight-game total based on the act itself and the fact Sutton has been fined or suspended seven times in this 13 year career. The suspension would have been worse, but Ponikarovsky “suffered no apparent injury.”
Between his two suspensions this year, Sutton has forfeited some $264,749 in salary.
Moving forward, does it become harder for a team to commit to a contract with a player who’s one bad hit away from being in Matt Cooke territory?
“Andy has been a good player for us,” said Tambellini. “Unfortunately he’s had a couple of incidents where he’s been suspended, but he’s been a great teammate, a physical presence and he’s just going to have to adapt his game a little bit to what the standards are right now.”