The Department of Player Safety is going to have a busy week on their hands, and the Boston Bruins are in the middle of a lot of those calls that Brendan Shanahan and the DoPS will be making. They’ve begun to hand out disciplinary action for the Bruins-Penguins game that occurred last Saturday. In a call that may have a lot of us worrying about the fate of our Merlot Man Shawn Thornton, they DoPS chose to take up the hit by James Neal first. Now he’s going to pay the piper for going out of his way to attack Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand.
The National Hockey League has determined that James Neal will be suspended for five games. Here is the breakdown from DoPS on the hit and the reason for a longer than expected suspension. (NHL)
While the DoPS has determined that Neal is not a repeat offender under the latest CBA, it is true that James Neal has faced supplementary discipline from the league in the past for his actions. During his career, he had been fined and suspended for improper actions taken on the ice. The league believed that Neal was engaging the target (in this case Brad Marchand) with a clear intent to inflict contact and injury on the player.
I can already hear the Penguins fans screaming bloody blue murder for this one, so for the sake of disclosure let’s be clear. James Neal and Shawn Thornton both let their adrenalin and anger take a hold of them. Thornton grabbed Oprik from behind, and slugged him while he was in a helpless position. That is no better than shifting your weight and nailing a player who is on all fours on the ice. The only difference is that Brad Marchand’s ability to shake off an attack is slightly better than Oprik.
Now we see what DoPS has in store for Thornton. I initally called five to ten games, but it could go higher after that call.