In the first period of last night's game against Los Angeles, Kings center Jarret Stoll drove Ian White into the boards behind the San Jose net, causing the Sharks defenseman to drop to the ice. With his nose bloodied, White was helped off the ice by the Sharks training staff, quickly exiting to the locker room with a dazed look on his face that indicated he was still attempting to put the pieces of the previous play together.
No penalty was called on the play.
White would not return to the game but did not require a trip to the hospital. As is organizational policy, doctors were on hand to attend to White and provide the necessary care.
The hit raised eyebrows at NHL headquarters, and is currently being looked into by the disciplinary committee headed by Colin Campbell.
Following the game Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan spoke about the hit, emphasizing the fact that the League has made it clear to organizations, coaching staffs, and players what is expected of them concerning blindside hits to the head.
"The good news for us is that the league is looking at these type of things, they take it very seriously. And it will be dealt with. The bad news is we lost a very good defenseman that we count on," McLellan said. "It's disappointing that it was missed on the ice but it's in somebody else's hands now. We know it is a serious thing the league is looking at."
"Obviously he didn't finish the night, and we'll see how he is in the morning. He's not feeling real good."
The hit in question, which did not result in a penalty, clearly falls under the umbrella of a boarding call. Stoll approaches the puck with White's back turned to him and initiates contact with White in a vulnerable position along the boards. Although these types of plays occur in a split-second (something that instant replay distorts when you break down a hit frame-by-frame), there's no doubt that the officials would like to have that one back. It was a boarding call by the book.
The second portion of this concerns supplementary discipline. Stoll doesn't have a rap sheet of reckless play, something that will obviously have an influence on the size of the fine, or length of the suspension, that Stoll could potentially receive. It's hard to say the head was clearly targeted as Stoll is finishing his check with White in a slightly crouched position. However, it should be noted that Stoll does slightly lead with his right forearm-- the contact with White's head may be incidental (and I believe it is-- it didn't seem to be head hunting), but that contact was made.
Rule 48 is defined as such:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.
Again, saying that Stoll targeted the head of White is an assertion that doesn't fit what the replay is showing. However, considering White's head was the principal point of contact with Stoll's elbow, as well as the fact that the hit was a textbook case of boarding, I think it's fair to say that a suspension is warranted, especially if the League is taking head shots and potential concussions as seriously as they wish to appear to be to the general public.
With the playoffs in full swing, this is the first opportunity for the NHL to make a stand if they want to send a strong message to the players that the same rules apply whether or not a team is in the midst of a playoff run. Head shots have been a spirited subject of debate all throughout the regular season, but since Stoll's hit came on the second day of the postseason, it's really the first time players will be able to see what type of policy the NHL will implement going forward.
Individual players facing suspension mean much more to their respective teams now. Stoll's hit on White gives the NHL their first chance to set a standard that makes it clear to the players and coaching staffs what type of enforcement they will, and most importantly, be willing to, hand out in the most scrutinized part of the year. Especially when it could be a defining decision that affects an entire series.
My guess is Stoll gets two games.