When Andy Sutton was a free agent 2 years ago, I actually thought the Sabres should go after him. What in the world was I thinking? The guy is a black mark on the sport and I’m wondering why he’s still allowed to play in the National Hockey League?
The Edmonton Oilers defenseman was recently suspended by the NHL for 8 games for charging into Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. Calling it charging is like saying the Bills are in a bit of a playoff drought. Sutton left his feet, made contact with Ponikarovsky’s head, drove him into the boards and drove his head into the glass. This is par for the course for the man who has now been suspended 4 times and fined on 4 other occasions. That’s a total of 8 disciplinary actions against Sutton in his 13 year career.
It is his 2nd suspension of the season. He already sat out 5 games for a hit to the head of Colorado’s talented rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog in a game on October 28th. Clearly the message isn’t getting through since the hit on Ponikarovsky took place less than a month after he returned from the 1st suspension.
His track record also includes a 2 game suspension for boarding Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins in November of 2010. The other suspension came back in 2005 when he received 4 games for a blow to the head of Darcy Tucker.
If you go on You Tube you can watch some of his other “highlights” including a blow to the head of then Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold in the 2010 playoffs. The hit knocked out Leopold but the league ruled it a legal play since it wasn’t from the blind side. That was before the rules on hits to the head were altered. Sutton delivered similar blows to the Canes Jussi Jokinen and Ryan Callahan of the Rangers. He was fined for the latter incident but not suspended.
At some point Sutton should lose the privilege of playing in the NHL. The league is dealing with a rash of concussions for a myriad of reasons. They’re being reported more often due to the heightened awareness of the long term health ramifications. Some are just due to freak accidents or collisions. Others are due to the NHL not handing out stiff enough suspensions to repeat offenders like Sutton.
If you truly want to send a message that head hits won’t be tolerated then Sutton should’ve been suspended for at least 20 games for the hit on Ponikarovsky. There is a body of work to warrant a much longer forced absence than one tenth of the season. It comes down to respecting other players on the ice and Sutton doesn’t seem to have that in him. Maybe the NHL should throw a guy like that out of the league completely and end his career before he ends someone else’s prematurely.