Dennis Wideman suspended 20 games for hit on linesman Don Henderson

It’s been a week since Dennis Wideman’s bizarre, fateful collision with linesman Don Henderson. Or hit. Or crosscheck. Call it what you will, but back on Jan. 27, the Flames blueliner did something illegal to an official, and now, he’s paying the price for it.

Wideman has been suspended 20 games for his actions. He will almost certainly appeal, but for now: that’s 20 games gone, and $564,516.13 in salary lost.

This is a huge suspension, but it’s not surprising that it ended up so big. This wasn’t a player-on-player hit; this wasn’t the NHLPA looking out for its own against another of its members. Wideman’s hearing had a ton of people involved, from NHLPA representatives to the NHL Officials Association to representatives from the Flames organization (Brian Burke, Brad Treliving, and Craig Conroy) to Wideman and Henderson themselves.

Wideman may or may not have been dazed, out of it, concussed, what have you will on the play. There’s likely no way we’ll ever know for sure, but the player himself never admitted to it, neither in real time – he remained on the bench for the rest of the game – nor in his apology afterwards. So perhaps Wideman just made a really poor judgement call, and it’s one that’s costing him, big time.

You have to respect the officials, and actions like Wideman’s – crosschecking a linesman from behind, sending him down to the ice and, ultimately, to the hospital – cannot be condoned in any way. Throw in the fact that there were two warring sides in this matter, and you were bound to get a big number no matter what.

What does this mean for the Flames?

Assuming the 20-game suspension holds up, Wideman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until March 14 against the St. Louis Blues. This is, of course, assuming he’s still a Flame by then (which, in all likelihood, he will be: a suspension of this magnitude isn’t exactly going to make it easier to trade him). In case he isn’t, though, he’ll have served 13 games of his suspension prior to the trade deadline.

So if Wideman can win an appeal and get his suspension knocked down to 12-15 games or so, that leaves a glimmer of hope, and would allow him to return later this month, or in early March as opposed to the middle of it.

But for the time being, unless the Flames can get a roster exemption from the NHL – and for a 20-game suspension, it’s possible, although it doesn’t exactly cripple the team, particularly if he wins an appeal – they’ll be forced to essentially have a 22-man roster. 

The Flames already recalled Jakub Nakladal to deal with Wideman’s absence, which gives them seven defencemen for the time being. They’ll carry 13 forwards – so just one extra – rather than the standard 14.

Depending on any future trades, this could open up a spot for another Flames youngster. Kris Russell is an upcoming UFA, and it would be prudent to trade him; this would give the Flames room to bring up Brett Kulak or Tyler Wotherspoon, who Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska suggested could also be replacements.

Ultimately, it isn’t ideal to lose any player for so long. With the Flames completely unable to use him on the ice, Wideman is dead weight. But Wideman was far from one of the team’s better players to begin with, so there are silver linings to this entire situation. Nakladal will finally get his chance, and may even improve the backend; the same could be said for anyone else who may be able to get some NHL games in due to Wideman’s suspension.

  • CofRed4Life

    The Calgary Flames are honestly a better team without Dennis Wideman. Hindsight is 20/20, but we should’ve pulled the trigger on a trade over the summer assuming there was some kind – any kind – of interest our there. Among the more negligible decisions that have come to affect the 2015/16 edition of the Calgary Flames (this is assuming management did NOT plan to miss the playoffs and draft high, which at this point is almost hard to believe) is the decision to play #6 in a top 4 role, with ample powerplay time. Even with the most favourable starts all the stats are against him – our powerplay, our WORST IN THE LEAGUE powerplay was anchored by Wideman, missing the net, sending the puck around the boards and down the ice. I get trying to pump his trade value, but at this point, the best way this whole Dennis Wideman fiasco can sort itself out is if we end up drafting top 5, at least, I’d even say top 3, anything else at this point given this season compared to last would be a step backwards for this franchise.

    Which might have been the plan all along.

    • RedMan

      that’s why I am hoping Wideman makes it blow up in the NHL’s face. there’s a big concussion fight brewing for all major sports, and so far the NHL just pays lip service to protecting the players.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        I never played in the NHL and have had at least 5 hockey related concussions including 3 of the kind where there is an explosion of light in your head followed by projectile vomiting.

        It is not just a professional sports “thing” so watch out what you wish for or there won’t be any contact sports allowed in our “liberal/NDP” country soon.

        Professional or amateur or whatever.

        • RedMan

          the symptoms you describe are exactly why i think Wideman didn’t do it on purpose, and in fact may not have even been aware of the fact that he did it afterwards.
          explosion of lights in the head followed by blacking out or going to tunnel vision, accompanied by a screaming in the ears and sudden nausea… plus, when people are concussed or rocked, you often get a strange flight or fight symptom that leads to irrational thoughts fears and decisions.
          I think he was heading to the bench under these conditions, saw someone at the last second blocking his escape, and shoved hi instinctively. Like Rhett said, NOBODY is stupid enough to crosscheck a ref on purpose.

          • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

            What about someone that has been a model citizen their whole life and then snap for one second? Should we let them away with what they did? He did it not with malice but he did it .Get over it already.He is guilty.

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            What I was talking about is that concussion doesn’t just happen at the professional level. It also happens to kids, and beer leaguers etc and that there are going to be far reaching repercussions for hockey and sport at all levels and ages soon.
            To the detriment of the sport, but not the quality of life of the non-concussed.

  • slapshot444

    You gotta thick with all the people involved in the hearing they must have got close to why/how whatever happened. It basically came down to the arm extension / push after the collision as opposed to a bear hug to limit the contact. Bottom line is a brain fart by Wideman cost him big time. I suspect the number needed to be large to protect the officials going forward. I bet it comes down to 10 / 12 after an appeal. Then the statement is made by the NHl and the punishment is more appropriate. Funny how Raffe Torres can go around ruining careers before he gets a a big suspension and Wideman makes one bizzare mistake and it costs him half a mil. Thats Bettman’s NHL

  • Skuehler

    Deserved. League has to protect the officials and send a clear message as a deterrent. Man these guys make some serious coin.

    Wish that they would clamp down equally hard on hits from behind and hits to the head. This whole situation could’ve been worse.

  • RedMan

    I sincerely hope wideman opens a can of whoopass on the NHL – dangerous headshot with no call, failed to initiate concussion protocol for BOTH wideman and the ref – how stupid that the ref finished the game, then later was diagnosed with a concussion? kinda throws cold water on the theory that if wideman did suffer a head injury, he would have said something and not finished the game.

    NHL looks bad on this one – failure to protect guys against head shots, failure to call penalties on the head shots, failure to blow the whistle and allow a player who is obviously struggling from a serious head-shot to get to the bench, failure to put both wideman and the linesman on concussion protocol.

    • Bob Cobb

      Really? Its abuse of an official, plain and simple, even the least knowledgeable of hockey fan would realize this…..than again maybe not since you obviously don’t get it!

    • RedMan

      You are correct. But he won’t because it will look bad for his team too. If he had shown up with his own lawyer and a medical specialist, then this would have been really interesting for both the team and the league. As it is, I think he went there on his reputation as a good guy and to keep his reputation as a team player.

      If the team had been thinking, they shouldn’t have made him available to the media afterwards. Of course, the team would say we let him speak to the media because we didn’t think anything was wrong.

  • CofRed4Life

    Not surprised it’s 20 games. I’d be surprised if he won an appeal, though a roster exemption sure would be nice. That would help out a great deal.