The big story of the 2012 NHL Playoffs hasn’t been highlight reels, overtime victories, and bone crunching hits. It has been Brendan Shanahan. The head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has had his name in the headlines a ton this post season, and when you are the head of the department that suspends players, that isn’t a good thing. The on the ice product has gotten out of hand, and Shanahan was put in charge to maintain player safety in addition to maintaining the integrity of the game. Thus far, most would say he has failed on both accounts.
Shea Weber shoves Henrik Zetterberg’s face into the glass. 0 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiMgjO0EgtE[/youtube]
This is where it all began, and is a direct link to the brutality in the 2012 NHL Playoffs. The Armed Forces, have a LONG history of policing themselves, and hate it when they are not allowed to continue the tradition. Ice hockey is somewhat similar, in that vigilante justice is often served up right there on the spot with players attempting to police themselves. The problem with this is that sometimes vigilante justice isn’t enough, and then we have to get the Department of Player Safety involved.
In this case, Weber was NOT suspended, he was fined $2,500, or about 40 seconds worth of his 7.5 million dollar salary for the season. Now, while the money is irrelevant, and it is the maximum amount that Shanahan can fine Weber without suspending him, it is still annoying that he was basically slapped on the wrist and was allowed to move along. I can tell you this, almost EVERY player in the NHL has seen that video or a similar version. Players see this type of play happen and get pissed off, frustrated with the system, and for a select few, they see an opportunity to play closer to that “edge” between clean and dirty.
This play was happened on the first day of the NHL playoffs, and it was a very visible opportunity for Shanahan to set the tone. He saw the exact same play you all did, and if you are like me, most of you saw a CLEAR ATTEMPT TO INJURE AN OPPONENT. This was the perfect time to send a message to the league: that dirty, unsportsman like conduct, and clear attempts to injure an opponent will not be tolerated. Shanahan blew it, and I place his action (or inaction) on this incident as the main reason the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs are getting out of hand.
Shanny score -5. This is awful. Shanahan blew this one. Just because no injury happened on the play, doesn’t excuse the lack of a suspension on the part of Shanahan.
Byron Bitz boards Kyle Clifford. 2 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezl-_kIYfaY[/youtube]
I dont mind this suspension one bit. It was a dirty hit from behind, Bitz was thrown out of the game, and promptly suspend a reasonable amount of games. This was a positive sign from Shanahan, but it still is negated by the miss on the Weber call.
Shanny score: +1. Shanahan gets a plus from me on this call because I think he got this incident right on.
Carl Hagelin elbows Daniel Alfredsson. 3 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA_UhGIX2pw[/youtube]
Carl Hagelin is one of the better rookies playing in the NHL this season. He has never been accused of playing dirty, nor has he been suspended in the past, but the fact remains that this was elbowing to the head, it happend to the captain and best player on the Senators, and it was a suspend able offense. Three games is a good amount of time to sit for this hit, as it was an elbow to the head, and concussions are a HUGE issue in the NHL right now. The only problem I have with this is that there didnt seem to be any intent to injure on the play, and Hagelin gets 3 games for injuring a star player, while there WAS intent to injure by a star player (Weber) and he got none.
Shanny score: +1. He got the suspension correct, got the number of games correct. Still, it makes no sense to suspend this incident and not the Weber one.
Matt Carkner fights an unwilling Brian Boyle. 1 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWBBfm_zpk8[/youtube]
This is the second time Carkner has jumped an unwilling participant in his career. I have no problem with fighting in the NHL, and in the first incident, which you can see here, he was clearly defending a teammate who was hit well after the horn sounded ending the period. I do have a problem with sucker punches, which he threw on both occasions. If you are going to fight someone, do it the right way. Shanahan was correct in suspending Carkner for this incident, but I would have added another game on to the suspension. Repeat offender, and a reasonable argument for intent to injure considering the last time he sucker punched someone he actually succeeded.
Shanny score: +1. Not an awful suspension, still, given the chance to put repeat offenders and sucker punchers alike on notice, Shanahan fumbles it away. This is going to come back to haunt him later, because another repeat offender decided to play dirty again.
Andrew Shaw interferes with Mike Smith. 3 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK3BqzSkkCk[/youtube]
Here we see Andrew Shaw with a headshot on Phoenix’s star goalie Mike Smith. This is the first time Andrew Shaw has been suspended or fined in his rookie season, so he has no history. Shanahan has stated all year that goalies are not fair game, and hitting them is not allowed. Shaw comes in fast, with a sharp angle, and while I believe he did not intend to hit Smith, and certainly not in the head, I dont think he did enough to avoid contact. (YES, I am a ‘Hawk fan that thinks Shaw should have been suspended) I agree in protecting the goaltender, and that Shaw should have been suspended. My problem with Shanahan’s decision is that it is a clear reversal in his policies. He chose to suspend Shaw for 3 games, which is fine, protect the goalies and whatever, but Smith WAS NOT injured on the play. He remained in to finish the game, and played again in the next game. If Shanahan has the policy to suspend players longer based on wether or not the victim was injured, Shaw should have gotten something along the lines of Carkner’s 1 game suspension. I dont even mind the 3 game suspension if that is the current trend, but dont suspend a rookie with no history, for a play in which there was no injury, and no intent longer than plays with injury (if that’s your MO) or intent.
Shanny score: -1. Shanny, BE CONSISTANT! (please dont choose to be consistently bad) Good call to suspend, wrong length.
James Neal charges Claude Giroux. 1 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4IEPmoh0ZQ[/youtube]
Here we see James Neal, who does have a history, make two dirty plays with seconds of each other. On the first, he leaves his feet and levels an unsuspecting Sean Couturier. I think this was a premeditated hit on Couturier, and the fack that he leaves his feet makes it seem even more dirty. Players who hit unsuspecting victims is part of hockey. It happens all the time, and when done right it can be a game changer. It sends a nice message to keep your head up and that it is going to be a long hard series. When done wrong it leads to injuries (i.e. CONCUSSIONS). Shanahan disagrees that this was a dirty hit, or maybe not even that, he doesn’t think there is intent. Whatever, intent or not, he left his feet to deliver a check. BE CONSISTANT SHANAHAN.
The second hit is on Claude Giroux. He again leaps to make the hit, and if you look closely, he does the exact same thing with his arms on the second hit as he did when he was “jumping to brace himself for an unintended collision.” Yeah, I dont believe that one bit. Shanahan decided to suspend James Neal 1 game for these two plays. The theory behind this gem of a ruling is this: Neal is a star player (40 goals this season), and nobody was injured, so lets only give him 1 game. Never-mind that there was intent (leaving your feet means intent in my book), and never-mind that Neal has a history of this reckless play.
Shanny score: -3. Again, Shanahan makes the right call in suspension, and is wildly inconsistent with his punishments.This suspension is way too short for a repeat offender who arguably had intent to injure two opponents
Aaron Asham cross checks Brayden Schenn. 4 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzd4Zg9V15Q&feature=relmfu[/youtube]
Aaron Asham makes a play where it is clear that he has no respect for his fellow hockey player. In this video, we see Asham take offense to a hit Schenn laid on one of his teammates. Asham takes at least three strides, brings his stick up and cross checks Schenn hard in the upper chest area. This sends Schenn toppling to the ice, where Asham add insult to (non)injury and punches a defenseless Schenn in the back of the head. This is clear attempt to injure an opponent, and frankly, is disgusting to watch. This happened in game three of thee the series so the suspension is, for all intents and purposes, a series long ban.
Shanny score: +2. Asham had no history, but that doesn’t mean he had no intent to injure Schenn. Shanahan takes the oportunity to make a positive call, that should help calm his critics. 4 games is perfect for this penalty. No injury happened, but a clear attempt was made.
Nicklas Backstrom cross checks Rich Peverley in the visor. 1 Game suspension.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC0548gWLOE[/youtube]
Nicklas Backstrom with a cross check to the face of Rich Peverley, after what he saw as a late hit by Peverly on Ovechkin. This is a clear attempt to injure and Backstrom deserves to be suspended for it. There was intent, but no injury occured, and Backstrom has no history.
Shanny score: +1. No problems or issues here. Deserving suspension, and fair amount of games.
Those are the plays that have been suspended or not suspended as of last night in the playoffs. Unfortunately, Shanahan did not send a clear enough message to the league, and we ended up with this:
Raffi Torres shoulders Marin Hossa in the head. Suspension upcoming.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAQs8lq6KJ8[/youtube]
You can find my thoughts on Raffi Torres here. There are two things that are disturbing to me here. The first is that Raffi Torres was not thrown out of this game, and he wasn’t even penalized for the hit. This is something that needs to be addressed as 4 sets of referee eyes missed a play that resulted in Hossa being stretchered our of the arena. Shanahan for his part, suspended Torres indefenitly pending the results of a disciplinary hearing on Friday, which mean Torres will miss at least one game. He had intent, he left his feet, he is a previous violator of NHL rules regarding hits to the head, and he injured his opponent to the extent that he needed to be stretchered off. He will have to be suspend for a significant amount of time. This is yet another opportunity to make a statement by Shanahan. He needs to make the most of it, because these playoffs are turning ugly.
Referee score -100. Shanahan score: 0. Lets wait and see…
There is a theme to these videos, and it seems to me that the NHL suspends players based solely on injury, and places no weight on intent, which to me, is worse than the injury. I firmly believe that intent to injure is what should be weeded out of all sports, not just the NHL. If these athletes that continue to show a complete disregard for the rules, the league, and their fellow athletes are not stopped, sports fans and more importantly the on the field/ice/court products are going to continue to suffer.
Sean Keenan is an avid Chicago Blackhawks fan. He writes about the NHL for Cosby Sweaters. You can find him on twitter @Jekyll1489