Hanzal ban stirs debate

Dustin Brown, of the Los Angeles Kings, lays on the ice after being checked from behind into the...

Dustin Brown, of the Los Angeles Kings, lays on the ice after being checked from behind into the end boards by Martin Hanzal, of the Phoenix Coyotes, in the third period of Game 2 of the Western Conference final. (GETTY)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Whenever there is a suspension in the NHL, somebody winds up unhappy.

The suspended player and his team usually think the suspension is too long.

The victim and his team usually think it's not long enough.

The Phoenix Coyotes were without centre Martin Hanzal for Game 3 of the Western Conference final Thursday night as he was suspended one game for his hit from behind on Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown. It was a dangerous play with Hanzal tracking Brown from the top of the faceoff circle and then shoving him from behind into the boards.

Brown wouldn't comment on how he felt after the hit, but he was lucky to skate away from it.

The Kings, as you might expect, didn't think one game was enough for the crime.

"I know these (playoff) games are probably worth more," Brown said after the Kings skated at the Staples Center in preparation for Thursday night's game.

"I thought he was going to get two, but it's not an easy decision to make, especially considering we're in the Western final. As a player, you don't really worry about the length. That's something for the media, which really like to talk about it considering the state of the game right now."

It wasn't just the media talking about the suspension, though.

Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell told reporters he didn't think the suspension to Hanzal was long enough and that the bans being handed out aren't acting as deterrents to dangerous behaviour.

"A guy walks away with one game while the other guy is pushed away in a wheelchair? Is that what it's going to take? I hope not," Mitchell said. "Brown's in a very, very dangerous position, four to five feet from the boards, his back to the player -- lots of time to ease up or just go in with the guy, so no, I'm not a fan of it.

"I thought (disciplinary action) had been going really well during the regular season, but in the playoffs it has been a little different set of rules, and that's kind of unfortunate because it's not deterring the players enough, in my opinion."

Mitchell said the issue of supplemental discipline needs to be addressed by his peers and as part of the collective bargaining agreement. There has been a lot of talk about a lack of respect among the players when it comes to safety.

The Hanzal hit was a good example. As per the Coyotes' policy, Hanzal won't be made available to talk with the media until he has served his suspension.

"I think if you look around the league, the majority of players want to see stiffer suspensions and bigger fines because it deters players that way," Mitchell said.

"But I've said it from the start, if you rob a bank and it has $100 million in it, or it has five bucks in it, you're still doing the time. That's how it should be mandated.

"I don't know all their criteria, Brendan (Shanahan, director of discipline) and the rest of the gang. It's not an easy job, I know that, too, but I think it almost needs to come to a (suspension) system where it's a five-10-20 format, where it takes emotion out of the equation. You live and die by the sword. That way there can be no complaining on either end."

The Coyotes haven't been happy about the amount of contact with goaltender Mike Smith. A couple of Kings landed on him after the puck was frozen in Game 2.

"It's one thing when they're getting pushed on me," Smith said. "It's another thing when they're embellishing it and ending up on top of me. I'm not complaining. It's that time of season where you need to get traffic in front, but obviously it needs to be addressed."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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