Is eight games really enough? Why Andy Sutton deserved more

By Alexander Monaghan
President

Edmonton Oilers d-man Andy Sutton just doesn’t get it. In an environment where NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is trying to make the League a safer place, he continues to make boneheaded plays that warrant suspensions. As Jeff Marek and Greg Wyshynski pointed out during their phenomenal #MvsW podcast, he is quickly earning the distinction of this year’s Trevor Gillies aka the biggest bonehead.

Just over a month ago, Sutton was suspended five games for violating Rule 48.1 – Illegal Check to the Head. Not only was Sutton already a repeat offender before his clothesline on Gabriel Landeskog, he already violated the main rule that the League is trying to get rid of. Remember, Shanahan is issuing these suspensions not to punish but to teach players how to better play the game; how to better respect one another.

Apparently, the warning fell on deaf ears with Sutton, as it did in the past. Not counting his more recent suspension at the beginning of the season, Sutton was suspended on four other occasions while playing for several other clubs. Let’s take a look at the video, courtesy of NHL.com.

The above video will show some of Sutton’s past indiscretions. It shows hits from behind, blindside hits and the aforementioned clothesline. The bottom line is Sutton is a dirty player and the only way to finally get through to a player of his caliber is a lengthy, perhaps indefinite, ban from the NHL. Such a move worked for the now-reformed Matt Cooke. Todd Bertuzzi looks like a changed man as well. If he can’t then adjust his game, well there always is a chance to play for Vityaz Chekhov.

Eight games tied James Wisniewski for the largest ban the League has doled out. However, it does not necessarily mean that there is parity between the two hits. To be frank, Wisniewski made that infamous hit on Cal Clutterbuck because he is an idiot. He either thought Clutterbuck would still hit him or he thought he would get away with it with the ‘what did I do?’ excuse. Sutton, on the other hand, had oncoming forward Alexei Ponikarovsky lined up for a clean hit and simply delivered a leaping tackle to his face. Not only did he target the head but he sent Ponikarovsky’s head directly into the boards which could have caused a very serious injury.

In that same context, Wisniewski’s hit could have also caused major injury to Clutterbuck as the forward was not protecting himself whatsoever. However, the force was not as deliberate. He didn’t charge after Clutterbuck, he just laid into a player who was already heading in his direction. Again, it was dumb but not malicious.

Sutton is a rare breed and brings a physical presence to the Oilers defense that they have not had since Chris Pronger patrolled the blue line. Regardless, the veteran needs to adjust his game to play a hard-hitting style that does not hurt his team with penalties or in this case missing games. Adam McQuaid, Matt Greene and Ryan O’Byrne are examples of players with similar heights who can do everything Sutton does — hit everything that moves while maintaining a nasty presence in front of the net — and do it legally.

This instance was a great chance for Shanahan to teach Sutton a lesson on how the game needs to be played and for that I feel he did not do enough to the 6’5″ d-man.