NHL Playoffs 2012: Shea Weber and Brendan Shanahan's Wimp Call

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Shea Weber and Brendan Shanahan's Wimp Call

So much for the Shanahammer. We now have the Shanawimp. The hockey world is scratching its collective head wondering how Shea Weber was not suspended for his cheap play on Henrik Zetterberg following Game 1 of the Nashville-Detroit playoff series.

Since Shanahan became the chief disciplinarian for the league, he has ruled with an iron fist. While many complained at first, players, fans and coaches eventually came to know what to expect.

The league was on a mission to clean up the game. Cheap shots, dangerous plays and late hits were going to be punished. An added benefit was that he brought some consistency to punishments. After he handed down a decision, he posted a video breaking down what happened and why the penalty given was deemed correct. 

There has been a call for better player safety in light of the multitude of concussions that have affected the NHL. Shanahan had taken a lead role in this matter in an effort to clean up the game. While many complain about the lack of fights in today’s NHL, it is hard to find someone who does not want to limit the amount of cheap shots. Shanahan had done a good job at this.

There has been a long standing assumption that in the playoffs the refs just do not call many penalties. In the quest to improve player safety, the league needed to ensure that the players know that calls will be made and their health is protected at all times of the season. They no longer have that assurance.

Last night, in the Detroit-Nashville game, the Red Wings were trying for one last attempt to tie the game. They had 5.1 seconds left in the game and a faceoff deep in the Predators' zone. Off of the faceoff the puck went to the corner where Henrik Zetterberg and Shea Weber battled for it. Weber did his job and was able to keep Zetterberg from doing anything with it.

Once the whistle blew Weber decided to throw a punch at Zetterberg. Cheap, yes, but at the end of a game, there are often moves like that. On its own, it was not penalty-worthy. However, he immediately followed that up by grabbing the back of Zetterberg’s head and slamming him against the wall. Luckily for Zetterberg, the force of the blow stunned him, causing him to fall down. Otherwise, Weber was setting up to do it again.

A move such as that is exactly what Shanahan and the league are trying to fight against. This was not two players facing each other ready to fight; this was not a hockey play. This was a flat-out punk goon play. Weber skated away, and Zetterberg stayed down on the ice for an extended amount of time.

This is where Shanahan should have stepped up. A two-to-three game suspension seemed obvious. Heck, even given a playoff suspension discount, one game seemed automatic. The once nicknamed Shanahammer gave his verdict today and failed to suspend Weber and only fined him a miniscule $2500.

To wimp out on making the right call on this type of offense just because it is the playoffs completely undoes everything Shanahan and the league have tried to accomplish for player safety. Shanawimp is now no better than his predecessors. He has taken any meaning out of the league’s fight for player safety. He has shown that it is only a public relations ploy now.

He has now told every player in the league that the rules do not count. This was not a borderline play. There was no debating intent, trying to figure out if a player left his feet or if he could see his number as many such flagrant offenses can be argued on. A player grabbed an opponent’s head and slammed it against the glass, even breaking the helmet.

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Shanahan seemed to be able to hand down a quick suspension to Byron Bitz for his boarding hit during the Vancouver-Los Angeles game. While a correct call was made to suspend Bitz, was it that much worse than Weber’s hit? Bitz will be sitting for two games while Weber will send some pocket change to the league office.

Shanahan mentioned that the Bitz hit was “violently and forcefully” done. Somebody will have to explain to me how punching then slamming a players head into the glass is not violent. 

Apparently, if the Red Wings had lied after the game then Weber may have received a stiffer penalty. A non-injury should not be taken into account. Now teams know that after a dirty hit they need to tell the league that a player is undergoing tests and is perhaps day-to-day, or his participation is a game time decision. The idea of a punishment is to prevent the action from repeating. Shanahan has now approved any such hit.

In Game 2, the first Red Wing to meet Weber along the glass could drop their stick and slam his head into the boards. Heck, without the punch it is still less than Weber’s attack. Shanahan would not be able to penalize it without showing complete hypocrisy.

Expect a blood bath in this series now. By taking the easy way out, Shanahan has approved just about any retaliatory hit that the Red Wings make. It would take one hell of a blow to outdo what Weber did.

What a shame, too. This had the makings a great series.

 

PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports. You can follow him on Twitter.

To read his most recent articles see:

Detroit Red Wings: Breaking the Nashville Myth

10 Questions Facing the Detroit Tigers

5 Players the Red Wings Need to Step Up for the Playoffs

Henrik Zetterberg Breaks his Slump

What should the Detroit Tigers do with Brandon Inge?

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