Brendan Shanahan: Hagelin, Shaw Suspensions Prove NHL Playoff Discipline Absurd

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2012

Brendan Shanahan: Hagelin, Shaw Suspensions Prove NHL Playoff Discipline Absurd

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    The hallmark of fair enforcement of the rules in sports comes down to one word: consistency.

    For a baseball umpire, if you don't call the high strike for one team, fine. Just don't call it for the other.

    For a football referee, if you don't call pass interference for hand-checking on one team's d-back, just do likewise on the next possession.

    And fans should expect the same consistency from King of Hockey Disciplinarians, Brendan Shanahan.

    It's been a wild NHL playoffs so far with plenty of fists and hair flying. And there's still a month left.

    There's been some horrendous officiating as well.

    If it weren't for Danny Briere's offside goal in Game 1 of the Penguins and Flyers series, with the Pens up at that point 3-0, everything might be different.

    The city of Pittsburgh might not be on the verge of getting swept right out of the playoffs. But hey, everyone makes mistakes.

    At least the NHL league office has the benefit of video analysis to make sure they hand down fair and judicious decisions regarding player misconduct.

    Any reasonable person would be able to come to the right decision with such video evidence, right?

    Wrong. Just judge for yourself.

NY Rangers Forward Carl Hagelin Gets a Three-Game Suspension for This Elbow

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    Brendan Shanahan stated during the GM meetings that playoff suspensions carry more weight: "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. [In the playoffs], you're looking at things in seven-game clumps. It's a seven-game season each series."

    So if it's a seven-game season in this series, Shanahan has decided to suspend Carl Hagelin for a little over 35 games in a normal season. Never mind that Hagelin is integral to the Rangers top line and made a tremendous impact in Game 1. Shanahan thought the elbow was "reckless."

    Add to this that Commissioner Gary Bettman promised the "officiating standard is not to slip or change" during the playoffs. Maybe Shanahan didn't get that call.  

    Hagelin tried to explain the uncharacteristic hit: “I tried to finish my check, and he chipped it out and kind of went back a bit, so my elbow came up. His stick kind of came in front of my face, I kind of moved my head back a bit and my elbow came up and hit him in the head. I just hope he’s doing well and that he can play tomorrow.”

    Obviously Shanahan wasn't buying this.

    Even though Hagelin has no history of being dirty, grew up in Sweden idolizing Daniel Alfredsson and texted Alfredsson after the game to check on him, the Ranger forward could still miss the remainder of the playoffs unless New York can scrape out as least one win in the next three games.

    One would hope that at least Shanahan shows consistency in his disciplinary rulings. And thus, one would expect Hagelin's elbow is by far the most violent thing that has happened in these playoffs to warrant a suspension of three crucial games.

    As Warner Wolf would say, let's go to the videotape.

Byron Bitz Suspended Only Two Games for Boarding Kyle Clifford's Face

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    You can see the vicious intent of the hit here with no mediating circumstances, unlike those outlined by Hagelin leading up to his hit on Alfredsson.

    Only two games for Bitz.

    Surely nothing worse has happened than Hagelin's elbow...

Goon Matt Carkner Assaults Brian Boyle in a Dark Allery, Suspended One Game

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    Matt Carkner brutally pummeled Brian Boyle, and despite having a "supplemental discipline history" was suspended only one game.

    Perhaps if Boyle had been injured by the mugging, Shanahan would have sent Carkner to his room without dessert as well. 

    And to boot, Brandon Dubinsky was ejected from the game for intervening in the brutal beating. If this was an MMA fight, the ref would have stopped it before Carkner got that many shots in.

    Hagelin's elbow occurred in the second period, so this "fight" tinged it with suggestions of reprisal. If the officials had stopped the extracurricular activity that occurred in the waning minutes of Game 1, Carkner's pugilism likely would never have happened. 

    Instead, the Rangers lost Dubinsky for most of Game 2, lost that game in OT and now need to win at least one out of the next three games, or Hagelin won't play again this season.

    The only bright spot in this mess is that young Chris Kreider may be able to provide a spark for New York in Hagelin's place and carry them to the next round. 

Predator Shea Weber Slams Zetterberg's Head into the Turnbuckle, No Suspension

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    And finally, the coup de grace. Shea Weber's wrestling move received a $2,500 fine and no suspension!

    Weber's ludicrous, vicious actions occur after the horn and actually cracked Zetterberg's helmet. Fortunately, he wasn't injured on the "play," if you can call it that.

    Veteran NHLer Jeremy Roenick expected harsh disciple, comparing the dirty play to kicking someone with a skate. Brendan Shanahan instead gave Shea Weber a relaxing hot-stone massage, fining the $7.5 million man a paltry $2,500 for his barbarity. 

    Slamming an opponent's face into the glass is surely, at least, worse than a curse word!

    Even WWE talent scouts were impressed by the move

    This is not hockey. This is brutality. And in the case of Weber, unchecked brutality.

    And if a $2,500 fine is all this warrants, I'll expect to see Scott Hartnell doing a suplex on Sidney Crosby in Game 4.

    I would expect better consistency from Brendan Shanahan. The King of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick shouldn't show such fatigue in the playoffs.

    Maybe he should repeat the start of the 2008 season and sit the rest of 2012 out. So far, the one most deserving of suspension is "Shanaban" himself.

UPDATE: Another 3-Game Suspension from Shanaban for Blackhawk Andrew Shaw

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    Okay Brendan, let's review your reasons for handing out another 3-game ban, this time to Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Shaw: 1) Charging, 2) No Injury, 3) No History.

    So why is it a 3-game suspension? Just because it's a goalie?

    Or is it because, as noted by B/R's Brian Mazique, Mike Smith "acted like someone detonated a grenade under his hockey mask"? And then Smith came back and played the rest of the game! Bravo. What acting. Er, I mean, toughness.

    We're still dealing with Shanaban's complete lack of discipline for the Shea Weber turnbuckling of Zetterberg's head. Now, each hit that circles the highlight shows has to be dealt with severely. Expect a suspension for Washington Capital Nicklas Backstom as well. One game? Two? Ten?

    Did Smith deserve a 1-game suspension? Sure. Maybe even two games. But the wild inconsistency continues. Shaw might have been thrown out of the NHL if he had actually injured Mike Smith.

    We can only hope that this 3-game suspension doesn't dramatically impact the result of the series.

    Last night, Brian Boyle scored the lone goal for the Hagelin-less Rangers, putting them up 2-1 in that series. It surely must have felt like a bare-knuckled punch to the face (or two punches, or eight) for Ottawa.

    The only difference with the Blackhawks losing a player for three games is that they don't have Henrik Lundqvist.