NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan remained tough in his rulings this preseason and suspended Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith the rest of the preseason and five regular-season games for his shoulder-to-head hit on Blackhawks forward Ben Smith.
Ben Smith is day-to-day with a concussion. Brendan Smith, who will likely start the year in the American Hockey League, also will forfeit $23,648.65 in salary, which goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. The Red Wings have three preseason games remaining.
"You look at this year, the suspensions have been lengthier than they have been in the past, and I think the players are going to adapt," coach Joel Quenneville said Friday at the United Center. "It's been kind of in line with the way things have been going. In the past, it wouldn't have been as severe. But I think this is a new era we're looking at."
Quenneville said Ben Smith is "doing the same" as he was Thursday. Smith was at the United Center as the Hawks practiced, offering the media a smile and wave as he left.
"You knew it was going to be up there, I think we thought 10-plus," Patrick Kane said. "They're pretty serious about what they're issuing these days. It seems like Benny is doing better. Hopefully, he won't even be out that long.
"That's one thing you don't want to see is the guy that gets hit is out longer than the guy that gets suspended. It seems like that's been the case with a lot of these hits the past couple times with guys with concussions. I know Smith the guy that hit him. He's a young kid. He's not a repeat offender, but it's still pretty hefty for a first [suspension]. Hopefully, Benny will be better."
The hit occurred at 5:26 of the third period in their exhibition game Wednesday at the United Center. Smith received a pass from Dave Bolland and skated toward the goal with Brendan Smith as the last line of defense. Brendan Smith lowered his shoulder striking Ben Smith in the head as he passed. Ben Smith lay face down on the ice for several moments and needed help to the locker room. Brendan Smith was assessed a match penalty.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock continued to argue Friday that some responsibility falls on the puck carrier, in this case Ben Smith, for putting himself in that position. Ben Smith appeared to make a slight move immediately before the hit.
"I thought it was a little extreme to tell you the truth," Babcock told reporters in Detroit. "I still believe when you're a left handed guy, chasing the guy and you put your stick down on the puck, so stick-on-stick, body-on-body, and the guy pulls back he's got some responsibility in this area as well.
"In saying that, we're not condoning anyone getting hit in the head with someone's shoulder or any of that. It's important, they're a work in progress at the league too trying to figure this all out and how to protect the players. He's going to learn from this and move on."
Shanahan took into consideration whether Ben Smith put himself in a vulnerable position immediately before or at the time of the hit. But he ruled (as seen in the above video) that Ben Smith "slightly changes his path. The positioning of his head does not significantly change. So the onus remains on Detroit's Brendan Smith to deliver a full-body check. Instead, Brendan Smith misses and recklessly targets his opponents' head. This is a violation of the illegal check to the head rule, which states 'a hit resulting in contact with an opponents' head, where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact, is not permitted.' "
Brendan Smith was the eighth player suspended this preseason by Shanahan for illegal hits. The longest his ex-Hawk James Wisniewski's eight regular-season game suspension. Whether he starts in the AHL or not, Brendan Smith will serve his five-game suspension for the regular season whenever he's with the Red Wings.
"I was sitting on the bench after the hit and was telling some of the guys it's scary because it seems like Benny ... just gets touched in the chin and the next thing you know he's out before he even hits the ice," Kane said. "It's scary. The onus is definitely on the puck carrier too where you come in and have to be aware of that. But I don't think Benny could really do anything in that situation."
Brendan Smith reached out and spoke to Ben Smith.
"I just apologized and said 'In no intentions did I try to do that,' " Brendan Smith told reporters in Detroit. "I was just trying to out-play that man, and try to make sure that he didn't get to the net, and not let him score. Obviously, some things can go wrong, and that was the worst possible thing that could happen.
"I'm going to have to learn from this, for sure. The game moves very quickly. I'm going to have to adjust to it, and make sure that I'm in the right place at the right time, so that will never happen."