No one ever said taking the role of the head disciplinarian for the NHL would be easy. With concussions happening at a constantly-increasing rate—more than at any other time in the NHL's history—player safety has become the paramount, hot-button issue.
Brendan Shanahan thought spear-heading a more partisan effort to clean up the game with explanations of why, or why not, suspensions were handed out would be the way to go.
In his first year as the head of NHL player safety, not only as Shanahan done a poor job, his performance warranted that he step down from the position completely.
Throughout the season, Shanahan's rulings have come into question, despite his clear explanations. Shanahan handed out nine suspensions in the preseason, and 44 total throughout the year. Most seemed warranted, but all were ruled in a similar fashion: If the result of the illegal play caused an injury, the player would receive a harsher punishment.
That way of judgement is flawed, but has been moved to the forefront to the beginning of the 2012 NHL playoffs in regards to some punishments, and non-calls.
Take Shea Weber's WWE-style head slam of Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg into the glass. Shanahan doled out a slap-on-the-wrist $2,500 fine—the max allowed for players under the current CBA—for what appeared to be a clear intent-to-injure. Because Zetterberg wasn't injured on the play, and because of his star-status in the league, Shea Weber escaped any serious punishment.
Game 2 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators might have shown the biggest discrepancy in Shanahan's ability to rule consistently.
During that game, we saw two players involved in two separate altercations and two completely different results.
In defense of his young defenseman, Erik Karlsson, Ottawa's Matt Carkner attacked New York's Brian Boyle for his pot-shots on the young Swede in Game 1, knocking him to the ice with a swift punch to the jaw and subsequently throwing several more punches.
Fortunately for New York, Boyle was not injured. However, the intent was crystal clear: Carkner maliciously attacked Boyle with the intent to injure.
Carkner was suspended one game by Brendan Shanahan.
In that same game, the Rangers rookie-winger Carl Hagelin landed an illegal elbow on Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson, causing him to leave the game with an apparent concussion. Bear in mind, Hagelin has never received a game misconduct in his short career and has no history of such reckless behavior.
Hagelin received a three-game ban by Brendan Shanahan.
This morning on WFAN 660AM in New York, Shanahan called into the Boomer & Carton radio program to discuss his recent rulings and revealed that, in part of his decision-making process, he considers if there are any injuries.
At best, that's a poor exercise in judgement.
Carkner's ruthless attack and subsequent punches of a defenseless player should hold more weight, for the simple fact his intent was to hurt him. Bear in mind, Carkner has a prior history of this type of behavior.
The playoffs are off to a reckless start—case in point the Penguins vs. Flyers series—to the point where the overly-physical play is out of control.
You can thank the inconsistent rulings of the NHL player-safety department for not drawing a definitive line in the sand of what is accepted and what will not be tolerated.
To preserve whatever integrity, intelligence and patience remains, Brendan Shanahan should hand in his resignation letter to Gary Bettman, and as soon as possible.
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