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Gonchar vs Clutterbuck: Let the Debate Begin

Anyone who watched last night's tilt against the Penguins got to see an example of the type of hit that the NHL says it is against. In the third period, Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar hit Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck in the head, earning Gonchar a five minute major for interference.

What we did not have last night was video. Today we do. So, let's look at the video and have it out. Before we make the jump and start the debate, please try to keep this civil. Obviously this is a Wild blog, and I trust I know what most of you are thinking. Still, try not to go too far off the reservation.

First, here is the video:

At the 32 second mark, we get a pretty good look at it.

Another angle is included in a more lengthy highlight reel from the game. Find it HERE.

I am doing my best to put on my objectivity hat here, because I have firends on both sides of the aisle on this one. Looking at it, objectively, it looks like a dirty hit. Clutterbuck does not have the puck, and is behind the play. Fedotenko has the puck closer to the corner, and Clutterbuck moves in between Fedotenko and Gonchar, with Fedotenko making a play to move the puck back toward the corner.

Clutterbuck looks like he sees Fedotenko make the play, despite Fedotenko missing the bouncing puck, and Clutterbuck pulls up on the hit he is about to lay on Fedotenko. A split second later, after Clutterbuck is turning up the boards, and before he can even turn his head, Gonchar's forearm is squarely in Clutterbuck's face.

Now, some last night, and still today are saying Gonchar launched himself into Clutterbuck. I get into this debate every time there is a hit like this, and I still don't see it. Gonchar's skates leave the ice, sure, but not until Clutterbuck is going down to the ice. Inertia carries Gonchar down with Clutterbuck.

Gonchar does however, most definitely target Clutterbuck's head. There is no question there, is there? Gonchar most certainly hits Clutterbuck behind the play, and is targeting him while he is not looking at Gonchar, but instead looking at the puck carrier. Can we agree on that? Doubtful, but it certainly looks that way to me.

Looking over a handful of Philadelphia Flyers blogs or Washington Caps blogs would garner the opinion that Gonchar is a dirty player. I will save that judgment for others to make. He has never been suspended, at least from what I can find (please post any corrections to that in the comments).

Gonchar also looks to not be pleased with himself as he goes to the box. Does that forgive the hit? No, but he shows remorse immediately. Could be that he was sorry he put his team on a five minute penalty kill while down by one in the third period. Or it could be that he truly felt sorry for making the hit. Until we invent the machine that reads thoughts, we will never really know.

We have now reviewed the hit, and I have broken it down a bit, from my perspective. Let me now tell you what I feel will happen.

Absolutely nothing. Look at Down Goes Brown's NHL Suspension Flow Chart.

He has the superstar effect in play. Is he Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? No, he isn't. But he is still a superstar. Hockey fans across the country know who he is, and that makes him a star.

He has never been suspended before.

Case closed.

Gonchar got a five minute major penalty. They did not assess him a game misconduct, nor a match penalty. Could they have? It's a judgment call, but I think the gamer would have been called for here. Match penalty assumes intent to injure, which can be debated all day, but we do not truly know. It certainly was retaliatory, targeted the head, and came away from the play.

If the league is serious (I almost got that out with a straight face) about removing head shots, they would hand Gonchar a suspension. I would say two games to match the suspension of Ovechkin earlier in the year. At least one game is warranted.

The odds of him being suspended are not good. More likely he gets a stern talking to from Colin Campbell.

OK, here we go. Hockey Wilderness readers, PensBurgh readers, and all other comers. What say you?

1. Dirty hit?

2. Should Gonchar be suspended?

3. Does Gonchar get suspended? (If so, how many games?)

One other twist I forgot to include is the quote from Clutterbuck to Russo last night:

"He better hope he retires at the end of the year, I'll tell you that," Clutterbuck said, a cut on the bridge of his nose. "Somebody's going to hurt him before the end of the year. Someone will. It's not going to be me, but someone will."

Not sure I agree with the sentiment, but he was probably pretty heated at that point. Probably should have saved his feelings for today, but anyone who has ever talked to the guy knows, he just isn't going to do that.