As expected, the NHL has suspended Darnell Nurse for his actions in the final minutes of the Oilers loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. What is surprising is the length of the suspension, three games. I hadn't expected more than one game.
On the play, Nurse came to the defence of a teammate, Matt Hendricks, and starting a fight with Roman Polak, who he believed had tripped Hendricks, sending him crashing into the end boards, earlier in the third period of the game. Regardless of what value you feel Nurse’s actions have (and I believe it to have next to no value), I don’t think that there are many who would argue that Nurse didn’t cross the line by continuing to punch Polak long after it was clear that he had won the fight and that Polak was not going to, nor able to, fight back. What Nurse did is covered in the NHL Rule Book under Section 46.2 (Agressor).
46.2 Aggressor – The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant.
A player must be deemed the aggressor when he has clearly won the fight but he continues throwing and landing punches in a further attempt to inflict punishment and/or injury on his opponent who is no longer in a position to defend himself.
A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.
A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation will have this recorded as an aggressor of an altercation for statistical and suspension purposes.
A player who is deemed to be both the instigator and aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct (instigator) and a game misconduct penalty (aggressor).
Not being given an instigator penalty on the play - how I don't know - a suspension wasn't automatic; Rule 46.22 indicates that a player will be suspended one game, pending review of the incident, for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of the game. But even though the suspension is longer than I expected, I do believe that the NHL made the right call here. Nurse deserves to be suspended for his actions, and even though he has no history of similar incidents, what he did was unacceptable and in that context three games is completely reasonable. My only complain would in regards to consistency, this doesn't seem right when compared to previous supplement discipline decisions.