Brendan Shanahan — It’s About Time

Where was this all along?

For over a decade fans and players have had to deal with the fingernails on the chalkboard inconsistency and spinelessness of Colin Campbell as NHL’s principal disciplinarian.

Not anymore. The saviour is here and his name is Brendan Shanahan.

Following James Wisniewski’s excessively late hit on Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, Brendan Shanahan suspended Wisniewski for the remainder of the pre-season and 8 regular season games. Let me repeat that, 8, yes 8, regular season games! Yeah, that deserves an exclamation point. Brendan Shanahan explains his decision in this video on NHL.com.

Through 3 separate incidents, Brendan Shanahan has done more for the safety of NHL players than Colin Campbell did throughout his entire tenure.

Colin Campbell exerted about as much authority as a High School hall monitor as Sheriff of the NHL. Campbell’s stepping down, due to “ethical reasons,” during the off-season was long overdue. The NHL needed a new Sheriff in town.

10 games for Jody Shelley and five games for Calgary Flames’ forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for similar looking hits from behind. Now, James Wisniewski.

It’s a revelation!

The last couple of years of hockey have been defined by an overabundance of dirty hits dished out from players with varying but mostly minimal consequences. On top of that has been the ever increasing knowledge of the long-term effects of head trauma and concussions.

Colin Campbell was supposed to step up to the plate and do something about it. Instead, he struck out. Golden Sombrero and all. Every opportunity was given to Colin Campbell to make a statement to the players yet he chose not to embrace it. Colin Campbell made a seemingly easy task, very difficult.

In less than 2 weeks, Brendan Shanahan has confirmed what many of us have suspected all along.

Sending a clear, concise message is not complicated.

Since birth we are taught through reward and punishment. You do something good and you get a treat. You do something bad and you get sent to your room for a 10 minute timeout. No one likes timeout, not even adults. We all want to play.

What happens when a 10 minute timeout isn’t enough? You stay up in your room for 30 minutes. If that isn’t enough then maybe no TV for a week. Does everyone get the idea?

Bottom line, you get punished and you don’t do it again. If you do it again, the punishment becomes more severe. It’s as simple as that. Colin Campbell made that look really hard. As a father himself you would think that he would understand the basic principles of discipline.

It isn’t an understatement to say that Brendan Shanahan could be the saviour for the National Hockey League. In the closing years of the Colin Campbell era, the game was being threatened by the increasing risk of its star players being forced to spend significant amounts of time in the press box rather than on the ice. Sidney Crosby is exhibit A.

As I said in February, selfishly the NHL should be thinking of protecting its players for the good of the league. Hockey, like all sports, is part of the entertainment industry and without its biggest stars the value of the product diminishes exponentially.

With this immediate hard stance that Shanahan has taken, he is undoubtedly saving the current and future stars of the NHL. Not to mention saving countless careers and ensuring the quality of player lives after leaving the game of hockey. The threat is no longer a code red.

Brendan Shanahan understands the straightforward concept that stern yet fair punishment is the only way to stop these players from ruthlessly gunning for opposing players heads.

Moreover, it is sure a breath of fresh air to hear Brendan Shanahan mention in his explanation of James Wisniewski’s suspension that it didn’t matter that Cal Clutterbuck was unharmed on the play.

Halle-FREAKING-lujah!

My blood boiled after reading that part of the reason for Aaron Rome’s suspension in the Stanley Cup Finals was partly based on the fact that his hit “caused a significant injury.” The reasoning makes no sense. I can’t stress enough that the action should define the penalty and not the result.

Brendan Shanahan gets this. This is the type of thing that can make you fall for a guy. I might already be in love.

He also gets that the prior history of discipline should be taken into account when deciding on the appropriate time for a suspension. Watch out Matt Cooke.

Is this guy for real?

If I could create a head disciplinary figure for NHL ’12, I don’t think I could make one as good as Brendan Shanahan appears to be.

Looking back in time, the suspension of James Wisniewski will officially represent the turning point in the NHL’s handling of these goons. But the real turning point should be when the NHL made what looks to be their best decision in 5 years, which is the hiring of Brendan Shanahan as Vice President of Hockey and Business Development and, most importantly, head disciplinarian.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Significant Injury?

Nathan Horton lies on the ice following a late hit by Aaron Rome

Humans are social beings and as social beings our lives are overrun by emotions. Emotions cloud our judgement. Emotions change our perception of what we see and how we react to events.

Naturally, when a person is lying on the ice seemingly unconscious and having to be carted off our emotions get the best of us. No self-respecting person wants to see a person badly hurt no matter the circumstances.

Seeing Nathan Horton immobile for a good ten minutes following a devastating hit by Aaron Rome is a scary sight. As humans, we want revenge on the guy that did it. The Boston Bruins fans showed their displeasure by booing for a considerable length after watching the replay. Luckily, Nathan Horton was reported to have had movement in all his extremities while at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The sight of a motionless Nathan Horton led to a 5 minute penalty for Aaron Rome and a game misconduct. That wasn’t the end of it though. Today, Aaron Rome was suspended a whopping 4 games for his hit on Nathan Horton. The reason given by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy was that “The hit by Rome was clearly beyond what is acceptable in terms of how late it was delivered after Horton had released the puck and it caused a significant injury.”

Significant injury?

This is yet another critical error in their method of determining suspensions. As humans, we feel that the length of a suspension should be correlated to how hurt the victim is.

Our emotions get the best of us. The sight of a severely injured player brings out the emotions that we don’t want to feel like fear, anger and horror. The emotion of a seeing fellow human being in distress can bring out the worst in us. Despite the many angles that advancement of technology allows us, the replay of a hit is suddenly far worse in our eyes when we know that the player has been brutally injured.

If you subtract the Horton injury from this equation and look at the hit from an objective standpoint it really isn’t all that bad. The hit is obviously late and is deemed late based on the timing criteria utilized by the NHL. The hit was 28 digital frames (whatever that means) from release of the pass and the NHL standard for a late hit is longer than 15 frames which equals 0.5 seconds. Rome’s hit does not qualify as a blind side, even though Horton is not looking, because Horton is moving in the direction of Rome and Rome simply steps up on him. Most importantly, there is no intent to injure. The elbow in no way flies out and Rome’s shoulder makes contact with Horton’s head because Horton is admiring his pass while smack dab in the middle of the ice.

The hit isn’t pretty but it is nowhere near some of the worst hits we have seen recently in the NHL. Intent to injure with a hit to the head has been a major issue in the NHL, with a terrible amount of inconsistency regarding the handing out of suspensions.

Aaron Rome isn’t one to dish out dirty hits and this wasn’t intended to be one. Rome has been on the receiving end of a couple of big hits in recent memory and has suffered a concussion because of it. Rome’s agent said yesterday that “Aaron told me he was sad to see Horton lying on the ice because he’s been that guy twice within the year and would never intend to injure another player. He hopes Horton is OK and is sorry.” Rome also texted Horton today telling him that it was never his intention to hurt him.

Aaron Rome on contact with Nathan Horton

Now the fact that Rome apologized shouldn’t be a factor in the decision-making process either but it’s a gesture that most likely shows there wasn’t any malicious intent. The replay of the hit shows that too.

There have been too many instances over the past couple of years where players have been on the receiving end of very dirty hits but were not injured. The players who dished out the dirty hits have constantly avoided a suspension of considerable length in large part because their victim was not injured.

It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense that the statement given by Mike Murphy (who has taken over for Colin Campbell temporarily) includes the reasoning that the length of the suspension was determined because it caused significant injury.

The action should define the suspension not the result.

You can “dig” through the archives from a month ago and remember Raffi Torres’ filthy hit on Brent Seabrook. Torres got 2 minutes for interference and avoided suspension. That hit was from the blind side, he was gunning for his head but Seabrook got up and continued to play.

Related: Throw the Book at Torres

The issue here is that if Seabrook had lain motionless in a similar fashion to Nathan Horton than we no doubt would have seen a suspension given to Raffi Torres. It is completely illogical that the same action can result in a different penalty based on the injury of the victim.

The NHL isn’t alone in their ill-fated logic but I guess this is all a part of their endless display of contradictory messages. Contradictory message #243 — Hit but don’t hurt.

There are at least a dozen hits that immediately come to mind that are much worse than the hit by Aaron Rome. Steckel on Crosby, Kunitz on Gagne, Downie on Lovejoy, Downie on McAmmond, Cooke on Savard, Cooke on Mcdonagh, Cooke on Tyutin and well Cooke on pretty much everyone. Listing everyone is pointless because there are just so many but you get the idea.

The city of Montreal wanted blood for all the wrong reasons when Zdeno Chara accidentally nailed Max Paciroetty into the stanchion. Boston fans want blood for what Aaron Rome did. They want blood for the wrong reason.

Aaron Rome is now out for the rest of the Stanley Cup Final and all because his hit caused “significant injury.”

Related: NHL Head Shots

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Throw the Book at Torres

Raffi Torres and his crazy eyes

If the NHL wants to prove that it is serious in its war against head shots then the time is now.

In game 3 of the Vancouver Canucks’ series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Raffi Torres nailed star Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook in the head (See video here). Torres was playing in his first game back, fresh off of an, in my opinion, unjust 4 game suspension with his hit to the head of a reaching Jordan Eberle.

The hit on Seabrook was the kind of hit you cringe. It’s the kind of thing that the NHL and NFL are trying eliminate.

Head shots.

There is a lot of debate already to whether Torres’ hit was in fact illegal. You can even see in the video Raffi Torres is claiming the newly implemented rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head. Bob McKenzie tweeted last night he believed initially that this was a classic case of rule 48 “Blindside hit, principal pt of contact to head or targeted head shot.” However, he subsequently tweeted that “When NHL GMs created Rule 48, they allowed area behind net is “hitting area” and players need to be more aware than, say, in neutral zone.”

To be honest, that second tweet just sounds like more ambiguity than anything else and it seems as though there can be a wide range of interpretations to the Torres hit.

The other big issue that McKenzie points out is “principal point of contact. Was it a straight on body check where shoulder also struck head or a “head shot.”??” There is no doubt in my mind that this is a head shot, not a case of his shoulder also striking the head. Whether or not Raffi Torres intended to hit Seabrook in the head is anyone’s guess but there is undeniably a great degree of recklessness involved in the play.

What has to be taken into account here is that Raffi Torres is a repeat offender and I’m not just talking about his most recent hit to Eberle. The CBC broadcast showed his Scott Stevens like elbow to the head of Milan Michalek way back in 2006, which is about as dirty a play as you’re going to see in the NHL.

Repeat offenders need to be punished. When repeat offenders are not punished you get Matt Cooke.

Related: NHL Head Shots

The NHL often finds ways to cop-out of making the hard decision with their interpretation of the vague guidelines set in the rule book. Although it was too harsh to suspend Raffi Torres those 4 games previously, it was (almost) nice to see the NHL make an attempt at showing the players that the Matt Cooke 10 game plus the first round of playoffs suspension wasn’t an anomaly even if it was the wrong one.

They must not revert back to their old ways.

I reiterate, this is a repeat offender. Even if there is a possibility that his hit was in the hazy boundaries of rule 48, a lengthy suspension will deter future offenders. This might have been said with the latest Matt Cooke suspension but I now believe that this decision on Torres will be the monumental verdict that will shape the nature of head shots for the NHL in the next 5 years.

Brent Seabrook shortly after Raffi Torres' shot to his head

This is the turning point in the game, the defining moment of a career. This is for all the marbles.

If the NHL wants to protect its product and its players then they have to come down hard on Torres. Anything less than five games should be heart wrenching for fans. That look of confusion that Seabrook had on the bench following the hit as he attempted to get his mind refocused, like a drunk convincing himself that he is okay to drive, will be the look on your favourite player in due time if the NHL doesn’t fix this pandemic.

Don’t think that the NHL is becoming the “No Hit League” either as some callous fans have deemed it. The safety of the player’s is priority number one and if you don’t care about that then take a look at the latest studies on the effects of concussions and then tell me what you think.

If you watched the game you must have seen Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis rock the world of Markus Kruger. That’s what the NHL is all about. It was as clean as my bathroom after using my magic eraser.

If you’re kid does something bad and you don’t punish him he will do it again. Colin Campbell doesn’t know whether he wants to be the good cop or the bad cop though. Well, it’s time for Colin Campbell to fully embrace his inner bad cop and throw the book at Raffi Torres.

Update: Raffi Torres was not suspended by the NHL. In other news, Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kunitz both threw out head shots on Monday in protest…at least I think they were protesting.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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NHL Head Shots

Matt Cooke has become the most hated player in the NHL

Despite self-serving pronouncements, the NHL head office has been very apathetic over the past couple of years in its efforts to crack down on players who recklessly cause head injuries. In fact, the only cracking that we have seen is the heads of the players who continue to be illegally targeted by these cheap shot artists.

However, it is possible that the NHL may now have wakened up to the issue because the biggest star in the NHL constellation – Sidney Crosby – has been seriously injured by an illegal hit to the head. Although Dave Steckel was not suspended for his dirty hit on Crosby at the Winter Classic, head of officiating Colin Campbell and the NHL handed down a 6 game suspension to Calgary Flames Tom Kostopolous for his brutal shot to Brad Stuart just a few days later.

The injury to Crosby, from which he has still for recovered, had motivated the NHL to finally do the right thing and give a legitimate penalty that will deter players from committing these illegal acts in the future.

It seemed like a step in the right direction.

However, this prettier picture was short-lived. The NHL doesn’t seem to understand what it takes to actually stop the hits from coming because following an intent to injure knee on knee by Matt Cooke on arguably the NHL’s most popular player Alex Ovechkin, Cooke was not suspended. Surprise.

Wouldn’t you know it, Matt Cooke then made sure he was suspended for this hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He got 4 games.

Really? 4 games? It’s unbelievable that the NHL can’t just open their freaking eyes. Matt Cooke isn’t just a repeat offender, he’s a multi-multi-peat offender.

Cooke has become a household name in hockey land for his filthy play. His elbow to the head of Marc Savard being the most well-known in his long line of “highlights,” which in hindsight may have signalled the beginning of the end of the productive career of Savard.

With the onslaught of dirty hits continuing, and the medical knowledge of the devastating effects of concussion increasing, the NHL had looked to be finally grasping the obvious point that, in order to protect its players and its game, it needs to place severe penalties on the players carrying out these actions.

I guess not.

Prior to the Tom Kostopolous suspension, most of the penalties issued by the NHL were either 1 or 2 game suspensions for hits of a similar manner. The problem is that with the amount of money these guys make a couple of games is not enough of a deterrent. Moreover, being suspended for 1 or 2 games out of an entire 82 game season does not penalize the player’s team enough either as they would only lose their player for a very small portion of the season.

20 Games, now that’s a real penalty. Is Matt Cooke or anyone else for that matter actually going to pull another one of their career threatening stunts if the possibility of being out for a quarter of the season is on the table?

Tom Kostopolous got what he deserved as someone who was a second-time offender. He sent out a statement to the NHL expressing his feelings towards the suspension saying that he was “extremely disappointed” in the ruling. Anger and resentment, those are the feelings that you want player’s to have when they get suspended because those are the feelings that will be in their minds the next time they think of doing something vicious.

What about Matt Cooke? I think he’s still applauding the NHL’s decision…even after 3 days.

Protecting their players, especially star ones, should be the number one priority of the National Hockey League because obviously if these top tier players are consistently being forced out for long periods of time as a result of illegal hits, the league itself will suffer a drop in its entertainment value. With an already struggling situation in many franchises south of the border, the league cannot afford to have their star players, such as Sidney Crosby, sit out for an extended period of time.

It may be selfish thinking, but the NHL should be protecting its players for the leagues own good, not only for the good of its player’s health and longevity now and after hockey.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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