By now I'm sure you've seen the Eric Gryba hit that left Lars Eller unconscious and lying in a pool of blood. It was a nasty hit to watch, as Eller was unconscious before he hit the ice and a hit you knew the NHL was going to take a look at.
After contact Eller's body flew violently through the air and he landed face first on the ice. He lay unconscious with blood pouring from his face. He lay motionless for several minutes and was taken off the ice on a stretcher. He was released from hospital and is said to have suffered a concussion, multiple facial fractures, and he lost some teeth.
Immediately after Eric Gryba laid the hit, debate broke out about the legality of the hit and whether it was a head shot or a suspendable offence. League disciplinary Brendan Shanahan decided that the hit did deem a suspension and handed Eric Gryba a two-game suspension.
While the NHL saw the hit as suspendable there is still some serious debate about the hit; Is this really the type of hit the NHL is trying to take out of the game or was this just the Shanahan appeasing the fans?
It's never a good scene to see a player unconscious and lying in a heap of blood. Your heart breaks for the player and his family as there's no guarantee he'll ever play again or be the same. But at the same time this is playoff hockey and with playoff hockey comes hard, bone crushing hits.
Gryba was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct, but the hit wasn't interference. I'm okay with Gryba receiving a game misconduct right after the hit. It's best to get him off the ice after that huge hit. Emotions are running high and the Montreal Canadiens would have had a bounty on his head. But the referees need to at least get the call right, this was in no way interference.
Eric Gryba delivered the hit while the puck was on Eller's stick. Interference is called when a player hits an opposing player who isn't in possession of the puck. Eller had the puck on his stick making him fair game for a big open ice hit. If anything, the better call on the play would have been a major for elbowing.
This was a horrible suicide pass from Rafeal Diaz, but I'm sure he already feels bad enough so let's not harp on him. Plain and simple this was a hockey hit gone horribly wrong. It's a collision you see virtually in every NHL game and a play that the Ottawa Senators use in their game plan.
Take a look at Jared Cowen levelling Jeff Skinner.
This is in essence the same hit, but Cowen wasn't suspended. The reason Cowen wasn't suspended as opposed to Gryba is due to the extent of the injury. As much as the NHL doesn't want their suspensions to be based off the extent of the injury on the play, sometimes that's the way it works. After seeing Eller unconscious in a pool of blood there isn't anyway you can't suspend Eric Gryba, it looks bad.
When you fully look at the hit and dissect it, Eric Gryba didn't leave his feet, he didn't land a flying elbow and Lars Eller's head wasn't the principal point of contact. Which makes this a clean hockey hit, anytime you take the puck up the middle of the ice you open yourself up for a big hit. The blood that was pouring from Eller's face was from the impact of his face hitting the ice, not the hit.
The toughest thing about this play is Eric Gryba had to lay a hit there in the neutral zone, it's his job. What if Gryba chose not to hit Eller and Eller passed the puck to another player or takes the puck himself and scores? Gryba read the play perfectly and wasn't going to pass up the hit, after all he's in the NHL because of his physical play. The injury to Eller was unfortunate but Eric Gryba's hit was the right play.
This is the prime example of how the NHL deals with borderline hits and suspensions. If there's a player lying on the ice unconscious or in a pool of blood, or if the player leaves the ice on a stretcher chances are the player who laid the hit is going to get suspended. If you look at the elbow Andrew Ference laid on Mikhail Grabovski, there's more intent to injure in that play yet Ference only got a one-game suspension.
The NHL needs to take a long hard look at the way they're handing out suspensions before the NHL turns into the no hitting league. Eric Gryba laid a clean, hard hockey hit that any defenceman or player would step up to make. It's the type of hit players anticipate in their sleep, a big open ice hit.
Aside from the injury to Lars Eller, there is no way Eric Gryba should have suspended at all. In fact if Eller had not been injured and skated off under his own power there's no suspension. This was a clean, big, hockey hit that unfortunately went wrong. The suspension was the NHL's attempt to please people who thought this was a dirty hit and to make up for Eller's injuries.