DETROIT – The time to watch and see if defenseman Brendan Smith is ready for the NHL is over after the league suspended him for the rest of the preseason and the first five regular season games.
It’s a suspension that Wings coach Mike Babcock feels is kind of harsh.
“I thought it was a little extreme to tell you the truth,” Babcock said Friday at Joe Louis Arena. “I still believe when you’re a left handed guy, chasing the guy and you put your stick down on the puck, so stick-on-stick, body-on-body, and the guy pulls back he’s got some responsibility in this area as well.
“In saying that, we’re not condoning anyone getting hit in the head with someone’s shoulder or any of that,” Babcock added. “They’re a work in progress at the league too trying to figure this all out and how to protect the players. He’s going to learn from this and move on.”
The incident occurred Wednesday in Chicago when Smith hit the Blackhawks’ Ben Smith in the head early in the third period. Brendan Smith was assessed a match penalty.
“I think some of the plays are no brainiers, suspensions,” Babcock said. “I think the other ones are a little grey. But if I’m in Chicago right now I probably see it a little differently. But I’d like to think not. I’d like to think what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. I also think we better not take the onus off the puck carrier.
“I don’t think most players know what’s going on,” Babcock continued. “If it doesn’t affect them they don’t do anything. I think Smith was one of those guys. He never thought this, he’s a puck mover. There appears to me there might be some suspensions of guys that have never been suspended. Then, suddenly you’re a second time offender. That’s the part I don’t like.”
Smith will forfeit $23,648.65 in salary, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Wings general manager Ken Holland said Smith is going to be assigned to Grand Rapids.
“I don’t think we ever stated our case,” Babcock said. “We didn’t offer an opinion. We didn’t call and lobby. We didn’t do anything.
“We’ve hired people at the league level with good experience,” Babcock added. “There is going to be an evolution in this too and we understand that. Just like when you add new rules, it takes players awhile to adapt.”