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Last week, Daniel Carcillo was handed a 10-game suspension as a result of abusing an official during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers forward received a game misconduct in the first period after shoving/elbowing linesman Scott Driscoll, who was trying to prevent Carcillo from engaging in a fight.

The NHL ruled that the incident was a Category II violation of Rule 40, which carries an automatic 10-game suspension:

40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official,shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.

However, Carcillo met with commissioner Gary Bettman last Friday to appeal the decision and the league announced today that Carcillo’s suspension has been reduced to six games. With three games already served, Carcillo will be eligible to play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings.

Had the original sanction stuck, he would have been ineligible to play even if they series went all seven games.

It’s an odd decision by the league considering the 10-game minimum ban that was attached to the original determination of Carcillo’s violation. It seems that the violation has essentially been downgraded from a Category II to a Category III, which reads:

40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.

If that’s the case, Carcillo’s suspension will turn out to be twice the minimum of the Category III automatic suspension. Since you can make the case for his offense falling under either classification, I don’t have a problem with the six game ban.

However, I do think that backtracking on the original ruling isn’t the best look for Bettman and the Department of Player Safety, who had plenty of time to review the incident and make a determination. Since there’s a bit of gray area between the two Categories, either decision would have been appropriate initially – all they had to do was take a stance and stick to their guns. Instead, they’ve basically admitted that they screwed up.

Not to mention Carcillo has a well-documented history of suspensions and aggressive tactics over the course of his career. Assuming he plays in the Final, the league is taking a big gamble by giving a repeat offender a “Get Out of Jail Free” card and hoping he doesn’t make them look very, very stupid.