Marchand/By S. Bradley

Once again the disciplinarians of the NHL leave us wondering just how many spots the ball can land in on their roulette wheel of justice.

Bruins winger Brad Marchand was suspended two games today by the league one day after San Jose’ s Dany Heatley was handed a ban of the same length for a more egregious act.

Marchand will miss tonight’s game in Nashville and Saturday’s in Toronto. It was fully expected that Marchand would face some sort of suspension after his elbow from behind to the head of Columbus’ R.J. Umberger Tuesday. Two games might not seem like much, but relatively speaking it’s too long of a ban.

Keep in mind that while Heatley has been in the league much longer and Marchand is a rookie with a reputation for rambunctiousness, neither player has been in trouble with the league prior to their respective head-knocking elbows Tuesday night.

When you watch the two plays, they’re not equal in severity or intent, yet the league deemed them worthy of equal punishment.

Here are the two hits again, starting with Heatley’s blow to the head of Dallas’ Steve Ott followed by the Marchand/Umberger contact:

In neither case did the NHL issue an explanation other than to say that the suspension and fine were for “an elbow to the head.” I for one, was disgusted by Marchand’s play, but was even more offended by Heatley’s action (even if it did come at the expense of Ott). At least Marchand is chasing the puck and it’s in the vicinity. You could make a case that it’s incidental contact. Heatley goes out of his way to throw an elbow at a guy’s head after the puck isn’t only gone off Ott’s stick, it’s being passed by a second Dallas player. Ott was shaken up enough to stop play, while Umberger gets up and goes after Rich Peverley along the wall and then gets involved in the scrum in front of the Columbus net seconds later.

One of the few things things the players and fans want from the league is consistency. In my mind, the Heatley suspension should’ve been longer. The league’s general managers spent three days debating ways to get more serious about head shots and legislate their reduction from the game, and then the league gives Heatley just a two-game ban for executing a maneuver that once made Terry Taylor famous in the old WWF.

If the league had gotten the Heatley punishment correct, then a two-game ban for Marchand would’ve been understandable. But to equate these two plays and dole out the same discipline just doesn’t make any sense, especially in light of the three-game ban Pavel Kubina got for this hit a couple weeks ago:

So now we know what the league office really thinks about what the GMs were talking about all week. All we get is a lot of concerned rhetoric and then the same old measly suspensions that have no rhyme or reason to them.

I guess imagining that big roulette wheel with the ball that determines these suspensions is better than the alternative, which is that there’s actual human beings capable of reason making these decisions down in New York.