By Sean Hartnett
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As the NHL’s head disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan’s duties are highly-scrutinized and largely thankless.
To his credit, Shanahan has sought the advice of general managers for feedback on how to handle certain disciplinary actions and provides clear explanations on his rulings through NHL.com video segments.
In most every circumstance, there will be an individual player, coach or owner seething over Shanahan’s decisions. As a hockey writer and a fan of the game, I appreciate Shanahan’s efforts but his latest disciplines handed down have been inconsistent and largely puzzling.
Shanahan joined the ‘Boomer and Carton Morning Show’ on Monday morning but his explanations did not clear up my issues with his latest rulings.
Listen: Shanahan with Boomer & Carton
Nashville’s Shea Weber was fined the league maximum of $2,500 but was not suspended for his actions against Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings. As time expired in Game 1, Weber battled Zetterberg for the puck along the boards before punching and then slamming Zetterberg’s head into the glass.
It was the purest definition of a ‘non-hockey play’ and an example of the dangerous thuggery that the league must attempt to eliminate in light of the players suffering from post-career depression and death stemming from concussions.
In his rulings, Shanahan always takes into account whether the victim of the incident suffers an injury but should this be a huge determining factor in Shanahan’s decision-making process?
We all know that Zetterberg could very well suffered a serious injury to his head and neck from being slammed into the glass. Weber was already on warning for his boarding of Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen in October. This was a second strike against Weber and he should have received a suspension.
Hagelin, a rookie who had a clean record before his elbow to Alfredsson was never previously fined or suspended by the league. Yet, Weber, a veteran with a strike already against him this season was only given a ‘slap on the wrist’ fine.
Shanahan spoke to Craig Custance of ESPN.com during the league’s winter meetings.
“The standard of what is illegal or legal doesn’t change. … When you suspend a player during the regular season, you’re suspending him over 82 games,” Shanahan said at the time. “[In the playoffs], you’re looking at things in seven-game clumps. It’s a seven-game season each series.”
So by that logic, Shanahan felt that Hagelin’s elbowing incident was deserving of a ban that would exclude Hagelin from three of the possible five remaining series games should the series extend to seven games. Should either the Rangers or Senators win the next three games, Hagelin will have effectively been suspended until next round or the entirety of the Rangers’ season should they be eliminated by the Senators in five games.
The Rangers expressed their disbelief at Hagelin’s three-game ban in the following official statement:
“The New York Rangers accept the NHL’s three-game suspension of Carl Hagelin and will not pursue an appeal,” the statement read. “However, we are thoroughly perplexed in the ruling’s inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs. We will have no further comment on this decision.”
I have no grievance with Shanahan’s banning Hagelin for three games. It was clear that Hagelin led with his elbow and delivered a reckless blow that can cause a serious concussion. Alfredsson’s status is currently unknown according to Sportsnet Canada.
The big issue is how Matt Carkner of the Senators escaped with only a 1-game suspension following his cowardly, non-hockey assault on Brian Boyle of the Rangers.
Carkner left his position on the ice with the sole intention of attacking and pummeling Boyle. It was clear that Boyle was caught by surprise. He did not engage with Carkner who sucker-punched Boyle and began throwing multiple punches while Boyle was in a defenseless position.
In the video, Shanahan described Carkner’s actions as ‘excessive’ and also brought up a similar incident in 2009 when Carkner broke the orbital bone of a member of the New York Islanders.
Boyle did not suffer an injury from the incident but why should ‘eye for an eye justice’ prevail in the NHL? The important thing is that Carkner attacked a defenseless player and his full intent was to inflict punishment on Boyle.
It’s perplexing why Weber and Carkner were given lighter punishments than Hagelin, the only player of three without a previous history of disciplines. This leaves serious hockey devotees like myself scratching our heads in astonishment.
NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick called for Weber to be suspended and expected Shanahan to “come down” on Weber. That’s wasn’t the case as Weber escaped without suspension.
Has Shanahan’s rulings been satisfactory or did Carkner and Weber get off lightly in comparison to Hagelin’s three-game ban? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.