While Brad Marchand will be watching his Boston Bruins teammates from the sidelines for the next little while, general manager Peter Chiarelli will be standing by his side in support.
Just over an hour after Brendan Shanahan announced Marchand was given a five-game suspension on Monday for clipping Vancouver Canucks defenceman Sami Salo on Saturday — a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup final — Chiarelli issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the penalty.
"While we understand that the department of safety is an evolving entity, it is frustrating that there are clear comparable situations that have not been penalized or sanctioned in the past," he said. "It is equally disappointing that Brad sought the counsel of the department this past fall for an explanation and clarification regarding this type of scenario so as to adjust his game if necessary.
"He was advised that such an incident was not sanctionable if he was protecting his own safety."
Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice-president of player safety, announced the suspension in a video statement, addressing Chiarelli’s claim and referring to Marchand’s hit as intentional and dangerous.
"We feel this was a predatory, low hit delivered intentionally by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over him," he said. "Further, Salo is not coming at Marchand with great speed nor with a threatening posture.”
Added Shanahan: “While we understand that in certain circumstances a player may duck or bail instinctively in order to protect himself from an imminent, dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive."
The incident occurred at 18:47 of the second period when Marchand dropped down to upend the blue-liner in the corner while Salo was going for the puck, flipping him over and leaving him with a reported concussion after falling hard to the ice and hitting his head and neck.
Marchand was assessed a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct, fuelling some already bad blood between the two squads left over from Boston's Stanley Cup triumph.
The NHL's dean of discipline also took into account the fact Salo suffered a concussion on the play. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Salo woke up with a headache Sunday morning, and is being treated according to the NHL’s concussion protocol.
Marchand, a 23-year-old native of Hammonds Plains, N.S., was also classified as a repeat offender, having been suspended for two games last March for an elbow on Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger, and receiving a fine during his three years in the league.
The incident also sparked a war of words between Vigneault, who said on Sunday morning Marchand was "going to get it" some day and Bruins coach Claude Julien, who responded on Monday.
“The comments made about [Marchand], I don't like that," said Julien. "Brad does play on the edge, but he's no dirtier than maybe two or three of their players. I think in general after a game like that you see all the high-handed propaganda and I just feel the need to respond."
For his actions, Marchand will forfeit $152,439 US in salary. All of that money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
He'll miss games against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 10, Jan. 12 vs. the Montreal Canadiens, two days later against the Carolina Hurricanes, Jan. 16 in Florida against the Panthers and the following night in Tampa Bay. He is eligible to return Jan. 19 when his team plays New Jersey.