Jason Spezza Likely Suspended Longer than Neal Pionk

The Toronto Maple Leafs got some bad news on Monday.

After taking matters into his own hands  Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets, it was announced Monday that Toronto Maple Leafs fourth-line centre Jason Spezza will receive an in person hearing with the league, which is required if the NHL wants to suspend a player for six games or more.

The incident occurred when Spezza came to the defense of Rasmus Sandin (who had previously been the victim of a uncalled kneeing penalty) by lunging violently at the Jets dirtiest player.

Unfortunately, Pionk was bending down trying to push the puck with his hand when Spezza hit him and the play ended up much worse than it should have been.

Jason Spezza Suspension Too Long Compared to Pionk’s

By offering Spezza an in-person hearing, the league has the option of suspending him for a minimum of six games.

Spezza isn’t a repeat offender, and he isn’t known as a dirty player. I understand the league has to come down hard on retribution type hits, but if Pionk wasn’t doing something weird and unusual (sweeping the puck with his hand) then the hit probably isn’t even remarkable.

Pionk was not penalized on the play, but did receive a two-game suspension from the league. 

Two games for an obvious attempt to injure vs five games (or more) for retaliating doesn’t really add up.  The NHL is always going to have a problem with retribution because hockey is an emotional game whose players are taught to live on the edge, so I can see why suspensions for revenge need to be harsh.

I don’t really have a problem with Spezza getting six games because it’s premeditated and it is, even if accidental, a hit to the head.

What I do have a problem with is that Pionk only gets two games.  The NHL Player Safety Department continues to give slaps on the wrist to players who perform dangerous activities.  Kneeing is just about the lowest thing you can do in hockey outside of biting or spitting, and two games for a potentially career ending hit is implausibly light.

Jason Spezza’s five games were warranted, but Pionk deserves about ten.

Wayne Simmonds was fined for his actions (warranted and much appreciated) in the game as well.

No word yet on when Rasmus Sandin will be back, but it does not look like it will be any time soon.  The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Blue Jackets tonight, hopefully with Mitch Marner back in the lineup, but definitely without Spezza or Sandin.