If you missed Game 2 in the series between Los Angeles and Phoenix, you missed several hits that could have / should have been reviewed by the NHL. Martin Hanzal's hit on Dustin Brown, Shane Doan's hit on Trevor Lewis and Derek Morris' knee on Rob Scuderi were just a few. Ultimately only one player, Hanzal, received NHL discipline (1 game) but others could have certainly seen some sort of additional punishment.
Then there's the Mike Smith incident. Smith developed a reputation earlier in this year's playoffs for embellishing contact. He was hit in the series against Chicago but made the most of it, doing a full barrel roll before hitting the ice. In Game 2 against Los Angeles, Smith was nudged by Dwight King, causing him to go sprawling to the ice as if a train had just collided into him.
Would the NHL ever consider handing out discipline for a player that clearly embellished/dove on a play? For the sake of the sport we should all hope so.
First, view the video below to see Smith's latest performance.
Martin Hanzal's hit was dirty and broke the rules. He earned a one-game suspension. Smith's acting job didn't physically harm a player but it is just as dirty of a play as Hanzal's hit. Where he isn't hurting another player he is hurting the sport and is damaging the NHL with each flop he makes.
The NHL often talks intent when reviewing hits, trying to determine whether a player meant to cause harm or injury. In Smith's case, the intent is clear. He is trying to deceive and cheat the game which as a result is making a mockery of the sport.
At the very least, the NHL needs to recognize that goaltenders are just as, if not more, susceptible to diving as defenseman and forwards. For instance, in Game 2 Dustin Brown was slashed by Smith, sending the LA forward to his knees. Upon review, it was a blatant whack by Smith that caused Brown's legs to buckle. The officials deemed Brown flopped and sent him to the box for two minutes. Smith on the other hand didn't receive a slashing call nor did he receiving an acting call on Dwight King's goaltender interference penalty. There's no doubt that King bumped Smith. However, Smith's reaction is so over the top it's laughable and makes the NHL look foolish for allowing such acting to continue.
The NHL needs to be aware of the problem and put an end to it before it can develop further. Already we have seen Smith go tumbling in this year's playoffs. He has gotten away with it each time and has even successfully drawn penalties on the opposition. If the NHL continues to turn a blind eye, don't be surprised to see more and more players falling at even the slightest point of contact in the hopes of sending an opponent to the box.
Now, the argument here isn't that the NHL should suspend any player that takes a dive. The argument is that repeat offenders that make obvious dives clearly need to be taught a lesson. In Smith's case, he has flopped more than once in recent memory. Obviously there is nothing in his mind that is saying, "If I dive X will happen". He has done it and gotten away with it. Currently there aren't serious consequences for his actions.
No longer. Smith, and other players around the NHL, need to be on alert - the NHL will not tolerate diving and embellishing. At least, this is the message the NHL should be sending. Dive once? Fine - the monetary fine, not "that's O.K.". Dive multiple times? Be prepared to sit out a game.
This may sound like a blatant attack on Smith. It isn't. There are plenty of players around the league that deploy a similar strategy - Smith just happens to be the most recent example. If you're a regular hockey fan you'll know who I'm referring to. In their case, like Smith's, the NHL has turned a blind eye.
This might sound like an overreaction but consider how other contact sports have struggled to keep cheating, flopping and phony injuries out of the game and it becomes evident that the NHL needs to put measures in place to keep its game as fair as possible. No one wants to watch a forward go sprawling to the ice whenever a defenseman leans on him.
Keep the game clean. Start handing out fines or suspensions to players taking advantage of the game. At the very least it will send a message that the NHL won't stand for such behavior. Player's reputations aren't the only thing at stake. The NHL's reputation slips a notch each time a player successfully dives or embellishes contact and goes unpunished. Let's put an end to it.
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