Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations.
Today, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations reviewed the actions of the Nashville Predators' defenseman against the Detroit Red Wings' forward Henrik Zetterberg during Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals last night in Nashville.
Shanahan had an opportunity—if not a responsibility—to carefully review this incident and punish Weber severely. His first disciplinary decision of the playoffs would set a tone for the entire postseason. The NHL community would be waiting.
Brendan Shanahan handed down his decision earlier today. Shea Weber was not suspended at all, and he will be fined $2,500 (the maximum amount allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Now the NHL community is waiting for Shanahan's explanation.
Shea Weber should have been suspended six games. That would equal the remainder of the series, if it goes the distance. If Nashville advances before that, the suspension would continue into the next round. If Nashville is eliminated before that, the suspension would continue into next season.
A suspension of that length would have shown the league that violent acts such as Weber's will not be tolerated, especially in the playoffs.
How many games should Shea Weber have been suspended for his actions against Henrik Zetterberg?
Another notorious incident from the playoffs provides context for this incident, and the appropriate level of suspension.
In 1993, during Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, Washington Capitals forward Dale Hunter blindsided New York Islanders forward Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon scored the series-winning goal in overtime. Hunter hit Turgeon high and drove him into the boards after the red light had turned on, the Islanders crowd had begun cheering and Turgeon had raised both arms above his head in celebration.
Hunter received a suspension of 21 games—roughly a quarter of the following season—which at the time was a record for an on-ice incident.
The end result of Hunter's act was far greater than the end result of Weber's. Turgeon missed the next series, whereas Zetterberg will play in Game 2. Consequently, Weber does not deserve a 21-game suspension.
But the intent of the two acts was the same. Both were malicious acts with the intent to harm, and neither occurred in the flow of the hockey game. A more significant suspension for Weber would have sent a better message.
Instead, Brendan Shanahan’s decision sends an entirely different message. Shanahan seems to be telling the league that this incident is just like the hit by Colorado Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux against Detroit Red Wings forward Kris Draper during the 1996 Western Conference Finals.
Lemieux was only suspended two games, even though Draper suffered multiple fractures to his jaw, cheek, and orbital bone and required reconstructive surgery. Not surprisingly, the incident ignited a blood feud between the two teams. Shanahan is seemingly encouraging that same type of retribution once again during the playoffs.
As a Detroit Red Wing, Brendan Shanahan drew some blood while participating in that bitter rivalry between Detroit and Colorado. After today's disciplinary decision, he may have a lot more blood on his hands.