NHL Playoffs 2012: Brendan Shanahan's Worst Suspension Decisions

Ezra SkobeloffCorrespondent IMay 12, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: Brendan Shanahan's Worst Suspension Decisions

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    Perhaps things have calmed down since the stupefyingly nasty first round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it wasn't a good start for the league—or Brendan Shanahan.

    The Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations was questioned early and often, and for good reason in my estimation. There were some nasty hits that went unpunished. There were some hits that, perhaps, should not have warranted suspensions. Undoubtedly, there was plenty of inconsistency.

    Shanahan may not deserve all of the blame, but like goaltenders, we've got to blame somebody, right?

    This slideshow will rank the worst suspensions and non-suspensions thus far in the playoffs.

    We haven't had a lovely video from the former Detroit great since May 7th, but there are still plenty of altercations to pick from.

    Without further ado, let's get to what we love to do most: criticize those who have to make the tough decisions!

Claude Giroux's Hit on Dainius Zubrus (1 Game)

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    This is one of those inconsistencies that fans, players and coaches loathe.

    Does Giroux connect with Zubrus' head? He does. Does the NHL need to take into account Claude's frustration before delivering the hit? I would think so.

    But given what has not been a suspension this postseason, which includes plays where players left their feet, raised their elbows and clearly targeted their opponent's head (none of which I believe Giroux did), I'm not sure what a one-game suspension means.

Nicklas Backstrom's Cross-Check on Rich Peverley (1 Game)

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    Here's a wonderful case of "[he] suffered no apparent injury on the play."

    I'll get to more of this later.

    The play looks very similar to Arron Asham's cross-check on Brayden Schenn, which got Asham four games. I understand that Asham's punch also was taken into account, but I'm not sure this type of play only warrants one game.

    Also keep in mind that in comparing these two plays, neither Backstrom nor Asham have received prior discipline from the league. 

Carl Hagelin's Elbow on Daniel Alfredsson (3 Games)

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    Feel free to disagree, but I don't see this as a three-game offense.

    This play is similar to the one James Neal made on Claude Giroux, which warranted a one-game suspension.

    I know the difference here is Alfredsson's injury, but as I stated before, that shouldn't matter.

    Whether it's one game or three, both of these hits deserve similar punishments. More perplexing, Hagelin does not have a history with NHL disciplinarians, while Neal does.

    Confusing.

Brent Burns' Elbow on Scott Nichol (0 Games)

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    As with most of these plays, this elbow is a pathetic act of utter violence. The game doesn't need this, and the players and fans don't want it.

    Burns' elbow reminds me of both Neal and Hagelin's infractions. Both were suspended.

    No doubt in my mind that Burns deserved at least a game. 

Rostislav Klesla's Hit on Matt Halischuk (1 Game)

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    I knew this was going to be thematic, but again, what really warrants a one-game suspension?

    I think most fans and experts agree: the result of injury on a play should not be a factor in deciding how long to suspend a player. Shanahan essentially states that the fact that Halischuk returns in this game lessens the severity of Klesla's punishment.

    Suspensions are not a tool used solely for punishing someone for the acts they've just committed. They are needed to erase such dangerous plays from the game.

    This type of hit is one of the most dangerous there is in hockey.

    Shanahan needed to come down harder on this one. 

Andrew Shaw's Hit on Goalie Mike Smith (3 Games)

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    This was one of the more controversial plays this postseason, undoubtedly because the play involved a goaltender.

    Some people may argue that the length of suspension is due to the need to protect goalies. But let's not forget Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller earlier this season. No suspension came of that play, and in my estimation, that was worse.

    Shaw's hit on Smith has received a lot of varying opinions, and mine tends to lean towards the suspension being too much.

    I will concede my bias as a forward and not a goalie, but I don't agree with the main point Shanahan makes in this video.

    While I don't believe this play was incidental, I don't consider Shaw's play to be a "forceful blow" either.

Matt Carkner's Mugging of Brian Boyle (1 Game)

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    Seriously, one game?

    I know I could go on and on about this one, but I'll keep it succinct.

    Carkner has a past that involves punishment for the exact same type of thuggery. He wails away at Boyle both when the Ranger is "unsuspecting" and lying on the ice.

    Doesn't get much worse than this for Shanny and the NHL. 

James Neal's Hits on Couturier and Giroux (1 Game)

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    This is a disgrace. No doubt about it.

    I'll save my breath on the hit on Giroux, given I've had my say on this one already. But no discipline for Neal's hit on Couturier?

    The play is very similar to Raffi Torres' hit on Marian Hossa. I had no problem with the 25 games Torres got for this hit.

    The fact that Shanahan could accept Neal's excuse of "jumping to brace for an unintended collision" is despicable.

    I'm not sure what the right number of games should have been (and please comment with your thoughts), but it absolutely should not have been zero.

Shea Weber's Acts on Henrik Zetterberg (0 Games)

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    It's the "play," if you're willing to call it that, that everyone talks about for good reason.

    There is no doubt that this deserved a suspension.

    Many will reason that Round 1 got so ugly because Shanahan chose to do nothing about Weber's actions. I think there is a reasonable argument for that. But if you ask most players, they would tell you that seeing this play go unpunished wouldn't change the way they'd play.

    Of course that's the correct response, and I don't think it's something anyone thinks about during a game. But I find it hard to believe that it could be erased from the players' minds.

    There's no way to know if the play would have been cleaner if Shanny came down on Weber, but it's an interesting concept and debate.