Now that we know the NHL’s stance on Austin Watson, the Nashville Predators need to manage the impact on the ice.
News broke of Austin Watson’s suspension this week, shedding light on the fate of the Nashville Predators forward. His suspension stands for all of the preseason and the first 27 games. Since the NHL has no policy in place regarding domestic violence, it was unclear what punishment would be handed out. Now that we know, what impact does it have on the team and the NHL?
Impact on Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators organization were put on attention with this news. Though it’s not the first time a Predators player was involved in an off-ice incident (i.e. Mike Ribeiro), it was vital for the Predators to respond in a professional manner. In a statement after the suspension, the team said they “supported and worked closely with the National Hockey League investigation.”
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While the NHLPA will be appealing the decision for Austin Watson, as of now his first game back from suspension would be December 3 versus Buffalo. The fourth line and also the penalty kill will need some reworking. Watson spent 170 minutes on the penalty kill last year, second in forwards after Colton Sissons. Right behind him were Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Bonino, both of which gave up fewer goals against in similar TOI. In 23 minutes on the Penalty Kill, Ryan Hartman didn’t let up a goal so he might be an avid replacement.
The Nashville Predators are also known for their depth. Some players that would be eager for the opportunity include Frederick Gaudreau, or newcomers Rocco Grimaldi, Zac Rinaldo, and Connor Brickley. I imagine Gaudreau would be the first call-up in any situation, but since it’s primarily a fourth line role needing filled, Rinaldo would provide the grit and toughness necessary. Because depth is so deep on the team, the impact will be minimal.
Impact on the NHL
Cases of domestic violence and sexual assault are not uncommon in the NHL. As Jon Garcia of USA Today Network – Tennessee puts it, in recent cases, the NHL opts “in most cases not to suspend or terminate players.” However, the decision to suspend Austin Watson was deemed necessary. Since the NHL has no policy on domestic assault, this suspension and the case with Slava Voynov will be used as precedents for future instances. They should pave the way for the NHL forming a stance on the matter.
Of the major sports, NHL is the only one without a defined policy, but this ruling should impact the league for the better.