Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Suspension for Brad Stuart

Hello! Today we will be taking a look at a recent All Things Avs blog by Adrian Dater. This blog deals with the lack of disciplinary action taken by the league over the hit by San Jose's Brad Stuart that knocked Avs captain Gabe Landeskog briefly out of that game, and caused him to miss the following game in Edmonton. Not only will we take a look at the blog entry, but we will have a little discussion about NHL rules and the Laws of Physics, to boot!

No Suspension for Brad Stuart

There is very little to this blog. Short and sweet, it's basically a quick update on the situation in which Dater informs his reader that the league has elected to take no action against Stuart for the hit, which also received no in-game penalty. My take (which will be evident by the time you finish reading the blog) is that while an in-game minor wouldn't have been out of order (Stuart's elbow made contact, but it wasn't extended, it was in the follow-through... so in my view that aspect is borderline), this was a fairly clean hit. The reason Landeskog got hurt was not a dirty play by Stuart, but because Landy skated head-first into a monster open-ice hit, the sort we Avs fans would love to see somebody in maroon -- say, Erik Johnson, for example -- dishing out to people.

Brad Stuart explains to reporters about how his strict diet
of infants and kittens has helped prolong his NHL career.
Things like this are when the All Things Avs blog is at its best: delivering little bits of information that are either too small or too trivial to create an entire column for them. So in theory, this is a good blog entry. Dater writes that he's not surprised there was no suspension because "Landeskog emerged OK." Fair enough, I guess... although I think it's more because it was a legal hit AND Landeskog emerged OK (or so we thought). It goes off the tracks, however, when Dater chooses to add in this sentence.

The head was the initial point of contact and Stuart left his feet delivering the hit – which Todd McLellan and the laughably homer-ish Sharks TV announcers said didn’t happen (might want to get your eyes examined boys, cuz he clearly left his feet)

To discuss the problems with this sentence and this blog, we can first look at the video of the hit. Landeskog approaches the collision with his body held much lower than Stuart's, there isn't enough height difference to cause this so it's either invisible stilts for Stewart, or Landy is crouching, having reached out a bit for the puck. It appears (although this is difficult to discern with 100% certainty) that Landeskog's head and shoulder are actually the initial point of contact with Stuart's shoulder, immediately followed by pretty much every part of Landeskog's body north of his shins (as opposed to the last time Landeskog got clobbered at the blueline, in which Andy Sutton hit almost nothing but his head).


The rulebook states that although a hit to the head is illegal, there are circumstances in which contact to the head is not to be penalized. According to the rule, an illegal hit to the head is one in which the head is targeted and one in which the principal -- not necessary initial -- contact is to the head. So right off the bat, Dater stating that "the head was the initial point of contact" is neither clearly factual nor pertinent, based on nothing other than the video of the hit and the definitions of the words used in the rule. We're fairly big on "definitions of words" here at Grading Dater.

Now, on to Dater's claim that Stuart "left his feet delivering the hit." Studying the video, it is reasonably clear that at the time of impact (a nice slow-mo replay of it at 1:01), Stuart's feet were both clearly & firmly on the ice. There is nothing actually in the rulebook about "leaving one's skates," but the charging rule states that a player "may not skate or jump into, or (charge) an opponent in any manner." Stuart did not jump at Landeskog, skate into Landeskog, or charge Landeskog. He simply checked him, without skating or jumping into the hit (pushing upwards and "jumping" are two very different things). The SJ announcers, homers as they may be, were correct... Stuart did not "leave his feet," either figuratively or literally, to deliver that hit, and thus was not penalized for charging. Click here to see what it looks like when a player does leave his feet to make a hit.

What, then, did Dater see that makes him so sure that Stuart did leave his feet? If you watch the entire replay, the feet of both men leave the ice at various times, but never before the hit. This is key, and this is the point Dater misses/ignores, because unless he's as blind as he claims the announcers to be, the skates he is seeing off the ice are all after the hit. This is entirely normal, and no hockey fan who's watched the game for a while gets all in a huff over a guy leaving his feet after the hit, because it's a natural aftereffect of any such collision.

To understand this, we need to venture into another confusing rulebook that nobody today has any use for: the Rules of Physics. Newton's Third Law of Motion states that when an object applies force against another, that second object applies its own force in return. Two forces arriving together from precisely opposite directions will transfer their energy to each other, and in the direction they were moving upon contact. However, if the two forces meet in anything other than precisely opposite directions, the force transferred will not be a direct "bounce,"  but will instead create a sort of shear effect, where the forces are redirected in a direction other than the one at which they entered.

All simple machines are based on this principle: transferring a force in one direction to move an object in another direction. The Wedge is a simple machine which takes a laterally-moving force and converts it to an upward (or downward) force. We've already established that Landeskog was lower than Stuart; therefore, he became, essentially, a wedge which forced Stuart upward at contact (by the same token, Stuart became a wedge that forced Landeskog -- and the entire Earth against which he was leveraged -- down upon contact). Some examples follow:

Similarly, any time you see two objects of similar mass and speed collide, but when one has a center of gravity higher than that of the other, one goes up and the other is forced down. In sports, the guy who hits with his body higher than his opponent will force his opponent down... and if the one being forced down has sufficient speed and size of his own, he will force his opponent up.

The bottom line of this blog is this: The San Jose announcers may indeed be homers, but in this case at least, they were also right. People -- even reporters -- can have different opinions of something like a hockey hit, but when a person ignores the rules of language, physics, and the NHL to call another person's take on something "homer-ish," we call that person a "homer." And also a hypocrite.

Hits to the head are a serious matter, but responsibility to avoid contact to the head rests on BOTH players in such a situation, not just the one delivering the hit. Landy needs to learn to enter the zone without putting himself in that position, because he's going to continue getting lit up if he doesn't.


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