Joe Thornton suspended for two games after hit on David Perron

The Wheel of Justice has struck once again.

Following an ejection of Sharks Captain Joe Thornton due to his hit on David Perron in the second period of last night's game, Thornton had a conference call at 11 PM Pacific with the league's disciplinary committee to determine whether or not he would face supplementary discipline.

The verdict? Two games.

NHL's principal disciplinarian Colin Campbell was travelling today, resulting in the meeting being conducted with NHL Vice President of hockey operations Mike Murphy. According to Darren Dreger of TSN, the fact that Campbell was not involved has resulted in a situation where Thornton's agent, his brother John, is considering appealing the suspension. Whether or not that will have any effect on the ruling remains uncertain, but one has to think it won't effect the discipline.

"I haven’t seen the hit, but I felt like I established myself on the ice and then I thought it was just a north-south hit," Joe Thornton told David Pollak of Working The Corners last night. "I braced myself for the hit and he just ran into me. That’s all I thought had happened."

As we mentioned in our analysis of the hit, a five minute penalty for a hit to the head was an acceptable decision by the referee under current interpretation of the NHL rules:

A literal interpretation of Rule 48 does lead credence to the idea that this was deserving of a five minute major penalty. While the hit was far from a blindside hit, it definitely toes the line between being a lateral hit versus one that comes head on.

Thornton is exiting the box from the side of Perron at about a forty five degree angle, which isn't lateral according to the body positioning of both players, but is lateral according to the head positioning of both players-- with Thornton exiting the box, the argument for assessing a major is that head positioning might take precedence here considering Perron didn't have the ability to see Thornton coming, something that Thornton was able to see from the time he exited the box to the time he made contact with Perron.

A Game Misconduct comes hand in hand with this rule-- if the referee feels that the head was targeted, the offending player (Thornton) is automatically ejected.

The next question to ask is whether or not this is a suspendable offense. I would think the NHL would be hard pressed to suspend Thornton from this hit, although they will most certainly review it-- there wasn't an intent to injure on the play, Perron came back to skate in the game (for better or worse this is something the League takes into account when assessing suspensions), and it wasn't a hit that blatantly targeted the head.

Thornton's shoulder does make contact with Perron's head, but it wasn't a malicious strike. Coupled with the fact that the play itself is already doused in shades of gray in terms of whether or not it was a five minute major, and one has to believe that Thornton will be in the lineup Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A suspension on the play is a clear indicator that the League is taking hits to the head extremely seriously. Ejection from the game should have been enough discipline for the play-- anything more than that leads to a situation where hitting in hockey becomes compromised.

Something that the NHL may have done today.

[Update]: According to Pierre Lebrun, the San Jose Sharks are "big-time angry at the suspension." An "agitated" Doug Wilson was reached by phone, and declined to comment.