Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin, Eric Godard Suspended; Islanders Fined
The NHL had a long day on Saturday trying to sort out the mess that unfolded during the Penguins-Islanders game on Friday night, attempting to hand out the proper amount of supplementary discipline for a game that featured over 340 penalty minutes, a number of ejections, and some ugly, ugly moments.
In the end, Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin and Eric Godard were all suspended, while the Islanders organization was also fined $100,000.
Here's how it all breaks down...
Eric Godard, Penguins: 10 Games. Godard received the longest suspension of the three and it was also an automatic one for leaving the bench during a fight (rule 70.11). After Islanders forward Michael Haley was involved in the second line brawl of the night, he made his way toward Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson and started to engage him in a fight (it was Johnson's second fight in as many games against the Islanders). As that was starting to take place, Godard bolted from the Penguins bench and joined the altercation.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was also facing potential discipline for this, but was not punished in the end.
Godard said he was aware the rule but felt he needed to defend his teammate, while Bylsma also told his team to remain on the bench.
Said NHL disciplinary czar Colin Campbell in a statement released by the league, "There can be no circumstance that allows for a player to leave his bench for the purpose of coming to the aid of a teammate."
This sequence was also a great example of how much control the referees lost, even allowing Haley and Johnson to be in such a position. The line brawl was taking place at the opposite end of the ice, and somehow the two players were able to get involved with one another. The quartet of David Banfield (referee), Dan O'Halloran (referee), Scott Driscoll (linesman) and Steve Miller (linesman) share plenty of responsibility in this, too.
Trevor Gillies, Islanders: 9 Games. The incident that helped lead to the Godard suspension was started by Islanders forward Trevor Gillies when he elbowed Penguins forward Eric Tangradi in the head, and the proceeded to punch him in the head multiple times, leading to the aforementioned line brawl. He was also caught on camera yelling at Tangradi from the tunnel as he was down on the ice being attended to be trainers.
Bylsma said after that game that Tangradi was suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Matt Martin, Islanders: 4 Games. With the Islanders already on top, 6-0, early in the second period, Martin skated behind Penguins forward Max Talbot, dropped his gloves, and attempted to deliver a sucker punch to the head. The Islanders were upset with Talbot after he caught Blake Comeau with a controversial hit that left him with a concussion in the previous meeting between the two teams. Martin's actions instantly drew comparisons to the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident that took place during the 2004 season. This wasn't even in the same stratosphere in terms of violence or consequences, but that doesn't excuse what Martin did or the way he went about doing it.
He's listed as a repeat offender by the NHL.
Said Campbell regarding the Islanders discipline: "The actions by the Islanders' Gillies and Martin were deliberate attempts to injure by delivering blows to the head of players who were unsuspecting and unable to defend themselves. The message should be clear to all players: targeting the head of an opponent by whatever means will be dealt with by suspension. The Islanders also must bear some responsibility for their failure to control their players."
And there we have it. So what's it all mean in the end?
For one, all three players and both teams should feel fortunate they weren't punished any further, while the NHL once again reacted to the result of the plays instead of the action. Had Martin fully connected on his punch and injured Talbot, he would have probably received a suspension in double-digits. Likewise, had Tangradi not been injured Gillies' suspension would have probably been significantly less.
Godard's decision to leave the bench seems to have gone under the radar, but it really shouldn't. It's a black and white rule and it could have easily escalated the situation even further (and if it would have, he too would have likely been facing a steeper punishment). Like, bench-clearing brawl further ... assuming the two teams actually had enough players remaining on their benches. He not only left the bench, he was also the third man into a fight. It was a horrible decision all the way around, and he walked away with the minimum punishment.
Do the suspensions hurt either team? Not really. The losses of Godard and Gillies are inconsequential. Both players offer no redeeming qualities on the ice as hockey players other than their ability to play three minutes a night (when they're actually dressed, that is) and take part in the occasional fight. Hired muscle, basically. Nothing more, nothing less. The talent level on both teams automatically goes up by having them out of the lineup.
Martin is of more use as a depth forward, and in 45 games this season has averaged 10 minutes of ice-time per game, scoring two goals to go with five assists.
The two teams meet again one more time this season on April 8 in New York, in a game that will likely be watched with an eagle eye by the NHL. It will surely be an anticipated game if only to see if there's any carryover from this circus. The Penguins won't be in any position to respond, and would be wise to resist whatever urge they may have, as any suspensions or punishment would carry over to the postseason. But you never know. If the referees in that game prove to be as incompetent as Friday's crew was, all bets could be off.
Along with the suspensions, the thee players also forfeited over $106,000 in combined salary.