Suspension to Maple Leafs’ Jason Spezza shows lack of consistency

Jason Spezza #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jason Spezza #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety assessed a six-game suspension for Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza for kneeing Neal Pionk.

To no surprise, Jason Spezza will be appealing the six-game suspension he was given from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and while it’ll be a tough case to overturn, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward doesn’t have anything to lose.

It’ll be unlikely to expect NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to overturn George Parros’ decision so it’ll be interesting to see if Spezza takes this further by going through an independent arbitrator.

Outlined in the video sent out by the league’s department of player safety, Spezza and whoever from the Leafs was on the call made three claims in his defence of the hit.

  1. He did not believe it was a kneeing call and it should be noted that he did not receive a penalty for the hit.
  2. Pionk was eligible to be hit since he was trying to make the play on the puck.
  3. If it weren’t for Pionk falling, Spezza would have delivered a legal check to Pionk.

What should be made clear is that Spezza was deserving of a suspension in this case. He made a hit that was dangerous and was retaliating to a prior play. The issue here is the fact that it seems like the NHL is trying to make an example of the 38-year-old who has no prior history.

Pionk got two games for a hit that will see Rasmus Sandin miss two to three weeks. Of course, Pionk is in concussion protocol so that’s why it’s justified for Spezza to be disciplined.

However, the NHL now puts themselves in a situation where they have set a bar for plays of this nature. Part of Spezza’s appeal process should point to other times where the league has either gone light on punishment or done nothing at all.

Look at Jack Campbell getting steamrolled by Marcus Foligno on Saturday night where he was clearly hit in the head. Not only did Foligno not get suspended for the play but he didn’t even get a hearing or fine.

NHL could have avoided the situation altogether with better officiating

The officiating in Sunday’s game against the Jets set the tone for everything that happened and it all started when Pierre-Luc Dubois was allowed to wrestle down Auston Matthews who does not have the puck at any point in the skirmish. The worst part was that Matthews got a roughing penalty on the play.

Leafs players after the game mentioned that the hit on Sandin set things off as there was a lot of extracurricular after the whistle. If the referees give Pionk the appropriate penalty on the play, this likely doesn’t escalate to this point.

Now, that doesn’t take all the heat off Spezza as he knew what he was doing when he went for the hit on Pionk. Unfortunately, the league made that a big part of their decision but the fact they knew it was retaliatory just shows how far they will go to back up their referees.

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What are your thoughts on the suspension? Did the league make the right call or did they it wrong? Let us know in the comments below.