Just when we thought we had the NHL Wheel of Justice figured out, it throws us for a loop. Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post Capitals' beatwriter, reports via Twitter that Alex Ovechkin has been suspended two games for his knee-check on Tim Gleason.â†µ
According to our previous formulation of the rules of the Wheel (did the hit cause a serious injury?, does the player have a history?, is the player a star?), Ovechkin should have been pardoned because of his star status. In Ovechkin's case, however, it seems that he has enough of a history that Colin Campbell's patience has run out. Although many have differing opinions on the severity/relevance of the issues, a knee-check on Sergei Gonchar from last year's playoffs, a slew-foot of Rich Peverly, and a boarding on Patrick Kaleta, all of which occurred in less than a season's worth of time, make up quite the laundry list of incidents.
In Ovechkin's defense, none of the aforementioned incidents were malicious; he doesn't play to hurt his opponents. He plays at a very high speed and with a high level of physicality and at times gets reckless. Capitals' coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged that earlier today. This suspension is the league telling him to slow down and try to avoid putting himself in situations that can lead to nasty hits (even if they are accidental).â†µ
Hockey fans everywhere stand to benefit from this. Ovechkin supporters can hope that he will slow down, preserve his body (because there is no way he can continue his current style of play indefinitely), and avoid injuring himself. Ovechkin detractors, who have been calling for him to be suspended for a while, can say "I told you so," and hope that he learns his lesson and stop his "dirty" play.