Commentary

Breakdown: Recent head-shot incidents

Updated: March 18, 2010, 6:05 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

Another day in the NHL, another night at the office for the head-shot police in Toronto.

The NHL on Thursday reviewed James Wisniewski's hit on Brent Seabrook and suspended the Anaheim Ducks blueliner for eight games, just the latest in a long season of head-shot incidents.

For the many confused fans out there, I've broken down several incidents from this season and tried to explain what the new rule (if approved) would or would not cover next season.

The official wording of what the new rule would cover: "A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or is the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

Oct. 23: Tuomo Ruutu on Darcy Tucker

Ruutu received a five-minute major for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct on the play. The NHL also suspended him three games for the incident, in which Ruutu plowed Tucker's head into the glass. The hit was from behind. It was a dirty boarding play, and the current rule book more than covers this play. The new rule doesn't apply here.

Oct. 24: Mike Richards on David Booth

On the play, Richards was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a 10-minute misconduct, but the NHL did not tack on any supplemental discipline after reviewing the play. Richards hit with his shoulder and didn't leave his feet. According to the current rules, it was legal. Under the new proposed rule, this would be a "blindside" hit and Richards would face both a penalty on the play and a suspension.

Oct. 31: Wisniewski on Shane Doan

No penalty on the play for the hit, but the NHL imposed a two-game suspension for a forearm hit to the head. This hit would not fall under the new rule because it was straight-on and not from the blind side, but the NHL would still suspend in this case simply for the high hit to the head.

Nov. 7: Curtis Glencross on Chris Drury

No penalty on the play (should have been an interference call, but refs didn't see the play), but the NHL suspended Glencross three games for a high hit to the head. Drury, who didn't have the puck, never saw Glencross coming, hence a "blindside" hit. This would be penalized under the new rule, as well.

Nov. 19: James Neal on Derek Dorsett

Neal received a five-minute major for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct. The NHL also suspended Neal two games for the hit from behind and head shot to Dorsett. Pretty self-explanatory, much like the Ruutu hit on Tucker. The current rulebook takes care of this one.

Nov. 27: Patrick Kaleta on Jared Ross

Five-minute boarding and 10-minute misconduct for Kaleta. The NHL suspended him two games, an easy call with Ross' head banging off the glass. The current rulebook covers boarding, so the new rule does not apply.

Nov. 28: Matt Cooke on Artem Anisimov

Cooke got an interference penalty on the play. You could argue it appeared as though he left his feet to deliver the head shot. The NHL didn't like it, either, and suspended Cooke two games. Here the new rule would definitely apply because Anisimov was unsuspecting.

Dec. 27: Kaleta on Paul Kariya

Kaleta got a two-minute penalty for elbowing, but escaped suspension. No question, this play would be further disciplined under the new rule, given that it was a blindside elbow, even if it wasn't that violent.

Jan. 9: Ed Jovanovski on John Tavares

Jovanovski got a five-minute major for elbowing and a 10-minute misconduct. The NHL imposed a two-game suspension because Jovanovski nailed Tavares in the head with his elbow. The new rule is not needed here; the current rulebook takes care of this one.

Jan. 19: Andy Sutton on Pascal Dupuis

Sutton received a five-minute major for boarding and a 10-minute misconduct. The NHL also nailed him with a two-game suspension because Dupuis was sent crashing headfirst into the boards. Again, the new rule doesn't apply here; the current rulebook covers boarding.

Jan. 29: Mike Green on Michael Frolik

Green got two minutes for elbowing. He's lucky it wasn't five minutes and a game. The NHL agreed and suspended him three games for the nasty elbow. The new rule doesn't apply here; the current rulebook covers an elbow to the head.

Feb. 8: Jeff Carter on Anssi Salmela

Carter was not penalized, and the NHL did not believe it warranted anything further. This was a clean hit, according to the current rules, and Salmela simply had his head down while scoring a goal in the slot. But the new rule would definitely penalize Carter because Salmela was unsuspecting. It would be deemed a blindside hit.

Feb. 13: Cam Janssen on Matt Bradley

Janssen received a five-minute major for interference and a 10-minute misconduct. It could have easily been five minutes for elbowing. Either way, ugly. The NHL also thought so and hammered Janssen with a five-game suspension because he targeted Bradley's head. The new rule does not apply here, however, given the straight-on hit, but the current rulebook covers the penalty and suspension, anyway.

March 7: Cooke on Marc Savard

Cooke was not penalized on the play. The NHL reviewed the incident and did not impose any supplemental discipline. Technically speaking, the NHL was right in concluding that Cooke hit with his shoulder and did not leave his feet to deliver his hit. Under the new rule, this would be a "blindside" hit and Cooke would get both a penalty and a suspension. Personally, the hit still bothers me because of Cooke's track record and the universal belief he was out to do some serious damage on Savard.

March 17: Wisniewski on Seabrook

Wisniewski got a two-minute penalty for charging. He left his feet and hammered an unsuspecting Seabrook, who never even had the puck. Wisniewski was avenging a dangerous hit just seconds earlier from Seabrook on Ducks teammate Corey Perry. The NHL was reviewing Wisniewski's hit Thursday. Would the new rule apply here? No, because it was straight-on. The current rulebook takes care of it, given that Wisniewski charged halfway across the ice and leaped at Seabrook, who didn't have the puck.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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