Quintal sets the bar with Seabrook suspension

In suspending the Brent Seabrook three games on Sunday afternoon for a vicious hit on David Backes, interim NHL disciplinarian Stephane Quintal sent a strong message (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP)
April 20, 2014, 5:22 PM

Brent Seabrook’s season may be over and there’s not a thing he can do about it.

In suspending the Chicago Blackhawks defenceman three games on Sunday afternoon for a vicious hit on David Backes, interim NHL disciplinarian Stephane Quintal sent a fairly strong message.

The intensity of games has been ramped up during the first couple days of the playoffs and Quintal is new to the top job – having replaced Brendan Shanahan for the remainder of the year after Shanahan became president of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is a time to draw boundaries, set an example.

Quintal was lenient in letting Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic walk away with a $5,000 fine after spearing Detroit’s Danny Dekeyser between the legs on Friday night. It was a dirty act and the second time in a month Lucic had committed it, following a similar incident with Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin at the end of March.

Had Quintal conducted a phone hearing with Lucic, he could have fined him up to $10,000 under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. A suspension would have been justified as well given the nature of the offence.

That ruling was still being debated on Saturday when Seabrook left his feet and hammered Backes behind the goal. He received a charging major and clearly deserved more. In handing out the suspension, the NHL’s department of player safety ruled that Seabrook had time to avoid the dangerous hit since Backes had lost the puck before it was delivered.

While no official update was provided, it was clear that Backes suffered a head injury on the play. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters that his captain wouldn’t have been available to play on Sunday if there was a game.

Given all of those circumstances, this was a tough call for Quintal. Seabrook is a top pairing defenceman with no prior history of supplementary discipline and a key piece for a Blackhawks team that is trailing St. Louis 2-0 heading into game three on Monday.

The only way he’ll get another chance to play this season is if the Blackhawks win at least two of the three games they have to play without him. That is a stiff penalty. It will certainly make Seabrook, who has his own concussion history, think twice when he’s allowed to return to the ice.

As we all know, the job of doling out discipline in the NHL tends to be a thankless position. Virtually every ruling is met with outrage from both sides of the argument; rarely, if ever, is their universal agreement on a decision.

But with a new sheriff in town, and the intensity on the rise, everyone is looking to see where Quintal will set the standard.

This was a good start.

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