The Detroit Red Wings, amid a successful start to the 2023-24 season, suffered an ugly loss on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators.
Captain Dylan Larkin was severely injured and needed assistance to the locker room. The question is, where do the Red Wings and the Department of Player Safety go from here?
This mess goes back to the 2021 season. The Red Wings were playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 15th and the game was close.
Larkin was ready to play a puck on the right side of the ice when lightning forward Mathieu Joseph, brother of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, slammed him into the boards head first.
Larkin fell to the ice but quickly jumped up and saw there was no penalty called. He took it upon himself to go after Joseph and took a swing at him from behind.
The blow did not fully connect as it was a glancing blow. Nonetheless, Larkin was suspended one game for the "sucker punch". Joseph received a two-minute minor.
Fast forward to March 20, 2022, and Joseph is traded to the Ottawa Senators. The rivalry between the Detroit Red Wings and Senators, as well as the heat between Larkin and Joseph, became more intense.
The games that would follow after the trade would see scrums constantly and numerous plays that should have been called penalties that were not, making things worse between the two teams.
Dylan Larkin suffered a bad injury on Saturday night against the Senators
This brings us to Saturday night when the two teams got together in an Atlantic Division battle for a future playoff spot.
Larkin was in front of the net, waiting for a pass or a rebound opportunity. The puck is covered by Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo when a scrum ensues. Things got bad extremely quickly when Larkin was punched in the back of the head by Joseph, instantly falling to the ice motionless and becoming unconscious.
Red Wings veteran forward, David Perron, who is 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, saw the incident occur and took it upon himself to do a similar action on Ottawa defenseman Atrum Zub, who was not involved in the injury to Larkin. Because of his actions, Perron will have an in-person hearing at a time to be announced.
There are several things wrong with this picture and the NHL Department of Player Safety have some explaining to do.
Because of their history going back almost four years, this attack on Larkin has to be considered premeditated. Jospeh waited for his opportunity and saw Larkin from behind in a vulnerable position and decided that wa the time to attack.
This was not an accident as Joseph saw it was Larkin. This was a payback attack for the glancing blow from two years ago. Larkin and his suspension were deserved but Joseph left another player unconscious and he got a two-minute minor?
Larkin was given that suspension because of a blow that was less harmful than this attack. Perron and his punishment have not been announced but expect it to be a fine or a suspension and fine, both deserved because of his attack. Perron did attack another player but that payer was not injured on the play.
Acts like this one are why fighting should have never been reduced in all hockey leagues as players need to police themselves. If we leave punishments for this up to the NHL Department of Player Safety then we will be disappointed each time.
This department has not been the same since George Parros joined this department in September of 2016 and was appointed Vice President of Player Safety in September of 2017.
Because of his role when he played in the NHL, he has time after time given the benefit of the doubt to the aggressor in any incident. Players were left to stick up for themselves because of the lack of suspensions or fines.
Detroit Red Wings forward Kim Klostin is the only player representing Detroit that would have stuck up for Larkin in a time like this. However, he was out of the lineup on Saturday and was not able to take action into his own hands.
Klostin is the only player who will fight regularly, which begs another question about Detroit's roster. The next time the Red Wings and Senators get together is January 31, 2024. If he is not in the lineup to add some muscle then this becomes a Detroit problem.
The NHL Department of Player Safety will have an announcement of what will, or will not, happen to Joseph in the coming days.
However, since George Parros was brought in these actions have been given a slap on the wrist with little to no fines or suspensions. He is a former NHL tough guy who always turns the other cheek on actions like this.
Step one is to remove Parros from his position. He is too close to the action and only sees one side of an altercation. Bring in someone who has not played professionally and can give an unbiased ruling that benefits everyone. If nothing changes then nothing changes.
Does Detroit have Kostin available on January 31st and let him take care of the issue at hand? Will the Department of Player Safety take this matter and give Joseph a lengthy suspension?
I agree with players taking actions into their own hands but this action crossed the line. What if Larkin does not recover from this? What happens if Klostin does the same thing to Senators captain, Brady Tkachuk? This seems far from over between these two division rivals and it has been intensified because Joseph wanted to "get even".
In transactions made by Detroit, Larkin was placed on Injured Reserve along with Klim Kostin and J.T. Compher, with no timetable on a Larkin return. Detroit recalled forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Jonatan Berggren, and Austin Czarnik on an emergency basis from their AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.