Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon deserved more punishment for respective crimes

Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon didn’t get what they deserved.

The Edmonton Oilers captain and the Colorado Avalanche’s star forward were subject to a few fines handed out the other week. On March 30, Connor McDavid elbowed Montreal Canadiens centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi near the head while returning to the bench. He was given the maximum $5,000 fine under the Collective Bargaining Agreement on March 31 by NHL Player Safety.

On the same day McDavid was fined, MacKinnon scuffled with Arizona Coyotes forward Conor Garland. In the third period, Garland aimed to hit MacKinnon and missed. MacKinnon retaliated and ripped off his helmet. The centreman proceeded to under-hand-throw the helmet at Garland. On April 1 MacKinnon received the maximum $5,000 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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Reviewing both of these plays, the NHL issued what their maximum numerical value of punishment was. By their accounts, that’s what they felt was the right decision. But in most cases hindsight is 20/20 and in my opinion both players should have received a suspension and one of them should have forfeited salary.

When Alexander Ovechkin speared Boston Bruins forward Trent Frederic below the belt on March 3 and he only received the maximum $5,000 fine, something wasn’t right. A few days before this incident, Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson cross-checked Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jimmy Vesey in the head after the final buzzer.

Chiasson received a major penalty, a game-misconduct and was forced to forfeit $18,534.48 by Player Safety. Both severe infringements and the star player in the league escaped with only a maximum fine.

Nathan MacKinnon (29)
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29). Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon both should have been handed bigger punishments

Here we see something similar. McDavid unnecessarily attacked Jesperi Kotkaniemi, elbowing the forward close to the head. We might say this was out of frustration. That’s a very logical input. But when assessed for this incident, McDavid only received the maximum fine as well. I don’t see an issue with the fine.

I see an issue with the fact that he escaped without at least a one-game suspension. It sends the wrong message to a player like McDavid. I understand other players hack at McDavid all game long. I understand there are some penalties that should be called against him. But when something like this occurs, and the name and number isn’t McDavid and No. 97, this would have resulted in a suspension.

This concept applies in MacKinnon’s case too. I understand Garland went after MacKinnon while the Coyotes trailed 8-3 in the third period. This was frustration as well. Garland is guilty in this incident no doubt. What gets me is the mere fact MacKinnon tore Garland’s helmet off and threw it back at him. Rule 53.5 in the 2020/2021 NHL Rulebook states that “a game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on a player who intentionally throws his stick or any part thereof or any other object or piece of equipment outside the playing area.”

Subsequently, Rule 53.6 states, “Match Penalty – If a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent by throwing a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at an opposing player, Coach or non-playing club person, he shall be assessed a match penalty. If injury results from the thrown object, a match penalty must be assessed for deliberate injury of an opponent.”

Even though it was an underhand throw, he used a protective piece of equipment as a weapon. Rule 53.9 in the NHL Rulebook also says there isn’t a specific penalty for throwing equipment but the commissioner can step in and make a decision. If there is anything the league needs to do to prevent something severe happening in the future, it is to also set the bar high right here.

MacKinnon should have received a suspension and should have been been in a position to forfeit salary.  And for a player who makes $6.3 million a year, forfeiting salary is chump change. Unlike Chandler Stephenson, who has been forced to forfeit $71,120.70 in salary and serve a three-game suspension for his nasty hit on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot. That was justified. No doubt about that one.

When we look at things from a wide-shot lens, there must be some sort of clarity when it comes to maximum fines, suspensions and the forfeit of salary under the CBA. It’s what we’re missing as fans. We’re left arguing and discussing our opinions on these matters without full disclosure from the league. All we get is it’s from under the CBA. That’s not enough.

The hope moving forward is the league begins to hone down on the stars in the league. It’s not acceptable that these big-name talents can scythe through the written scriptures and walk off practically scot-free. It would illustrate some sort of fairness moving forward.

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In total this season, $709,396.57 has been forfeited in salary through 13 suspensions and $194,694.68 have been issued in fines over 21 incidents this past year. More recently, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler got a two-game suspension and had to forfeit $103,448.28 in salary. Was it the right call?

I’ll let you be the judge of that one.