The NHL has suspended Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal five games for kneeing Boston Bruin forward Brad Marchand in the head during Saturday's game. Neal, who has ten goals and eleven power play points this season, received the news via a phone conference earlier today. He will not be available until December 19th against the Minnesota Wild. Despite losing $128,205.15 dollars in game checks, this suspension is a slap on the wrist. It should have been ten games or more.
Neal's Shining Wizard to Marchand was as dirty as anything Matt Cooke has done. Just watch the play, consarnit! Neal makes no effort to move out of the way and even appears to lower his knee, ensuring contact. The game begin rough and Neal was completely taken in by it. That's no excuse for clubbing a guy in the temple and there's no way that is worth only a five game benching. The NHL missed wildly on this.
Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan were given two chances to end fighting in the NHL and they have blown half of them. Neal is a second tier superstar with a slight history of goonish behavior (think the Philly playoff series two years ago) and his actions Saturday merited a lengthy suspension. The NHL is looking for a way to banish fisticuffs from the game and this five-gamer will not do it. Players miss five games with the flu and is a guy like Neal really going to miss $129,000 dollars? Heck, this almost counts has a breather for him. He should be more than rested for the Olympics in February.
If five games is all James Neal is going to miss, then Shawn Thornton has room for optimism. The length of Neal's suspension will determine the length of Thornton's. Since Bettman and his group has dropped the ball with Neal, they need to throw the book and the printing press it was made on at him. The NHL wants to eliminate fighting and post-whistle rough stuff? Then make an example out of Thornton. Make anyone thinking about doing something even remotely like this pause and think about Shawn's plight. His fate will be announced after his in=person hearing with the Department of Player Safety, whenever that is.
Because a five game suspension will not make anyone second guess themselves. Enjoy the break Neal. Be sure to thank Gary and company for it.
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