Anderson was given a five-minute elbowing major right as the final buzzer sounded after he laid Laine out with a vicious check. In its explanation video, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety says that Andersson “launched” into a high, hard check, while adding Andersson’s elbow made “significant” contact with Laine’s head.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 21, 2023
On Sunday, the NHLPA announced it would be appealling the suspension on Andersson's behalf.
After the game, Johnny Gaudreau described the hit as “unnecessary” while Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent believed it was a hit to the head and that Andersson left his feet.
This marks the first NHL suspension for Andersson, 26, who was also fined earlier in his career. Laine, 25, is considered day-to-day and didn’t travel for the Blue Jackets’ Saturday game against the Minnesota Wild.
Can the NHL discourage dirty hits late in games that have already been decided?
The league’s explanation mentioned Andersson’s upward movement (often described as launching) several times. They also took Andersson’s explanation — that Laine’s head was low — into account, noting that while the winger was positioned that way, it wasn’t lowered during the time that Andersson delivered the hit.
Pointing out the context of the hit ranks as one of the most crucial parts of the league’s explanation for Andersson’s four-game suspension. The incident took place in the final moments of the Blue Jackets’ 3-1 win on Friday, so the game misconduct and major penalty meant nothing. That context also underscores how unnecessary the hit was, particularly considering the force involved.
While the NHL automatically suspends a player who instigates a fight during the final five minutes of a game (especially notable when Darnell Nurse sat out a recent playoff game), players may sometimes believe they can “go into business for themselves” with questionable hits when a contest is already out of reach.
If Andersson's four-game suspension gets players to think twice about delivering dirty hits late in games, then it would be a great sign for a league that doesn’t always get supplementary discipline right.