Brendan Shanahan Bringing Overdue Direction, Authority to Player Safety

James ConleyContributor IIISeptember 28, 2011

Brendan Shanahan Bringing Overdue Direction, Authority to Player Safety

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    When it was announced that Brendan Shanahan would be taking Colin Campbell's much-maligned post as the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, the league was told to expect a harsher, more predictable, more clearly-defined system of supplemental discipline.

    With so many grinders and goons trying to make noise (read: lay enormous hits whenever possible) at their respective training camps, Camp Shanahan has already gotten a plateful in just a few weeks of preseason hockey.

    And as those players are finding out, Campbell's Wheel of NHL Justice has been thoroughly usurped by Shanahan's Laser-Guided, Bunker-Busting Missiles of Nuclear Punishment. Or something.

    The number of suspensions handed out in the first half of the preseason alone is nearing double-digits, with some players receiving bans that will erase the remainder of their exhibition games and extend into the beginning of regular season play.

    For a league accustomed to toothless, directionless, meaningless discipline (or an utter lack thereof), it appears Shanahan and his staff have set their precedents, with each ensuing suspension enforcing the standard.

    Already, Shanahan has addressed the complaints aimed at Campbell over the last few years. Rule 48.1, which addresses hits in which an opponent's head is the principal point of contact, has become ironclad this preseason.

    In years past, the rule was only sort of enforced, with exceptions made for head shots which took place behind the net, in certain areas of the offensive zone, when the player was within a certain distance of the puck...

    One can see how the old rule might have been lost on men who skate at speeds sometimes exceeding 30 mph.

    Under the new regime, head contact of nearly all sorts is coming under scrutiny. Rule 48.1 has been a star of Shanahan's video explanations so far, defined as such:

    "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted."

    Shanahan's lengthy and detailed video explanations are quite the departure from Colin Campbell's tepid statements on suspensions and non-suspensions, many of which could have been released in their entirety with only a tweet or two.

    Beyond the video explanations, the punishments are actually consistent with stated intentions. James Wisniewski, listed under NHL rules as a repeat offender, received one of the heftiest suspensions of the preseason—an eight-game ban for a blatant elbow to the skull of Cal Clutterbuck.

    First-time offenders have received lesser punishments than Wisniewski.

    For the NHL, this means players in the wrong will receive suspensions (and lost pay) that may actually put a moment of hesitation into their next big hit along the boards. With so many players lost to concussion, and perceived dirty hits coming with such frequency, Shanahan's relentless but fair methods are exactly what the league needs.

    At the jump is a look at some of the hits which have warranted suspensions, hits which are certainly receiving consideration, and a few examples of Shanahan's detailed video explanations.

Flyers' Tom Sestito Runs Andre Deveaux

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    While no decision has been handed down on Tom Sestito's hit, one has to figure its only a matter of time. Andre Deveaux was caught in a vulnerable position and was utterly defenseless.

    That Sestito skated so far (and at such a speed) to hit a player near the boards ought to earn him a hefty suspension.

James Wisniewski's Elbow to Cal Clutterbuck

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    Cal Clutterbuck is known for dishing out hits, but one more shot to his own skull and he'll be better known for receiving the worst of it.

    The recipient of a Trevor Gillies elbow last season, Clutterbuck absorbed a nasty, blatant elbow from James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    A repeat offender, Wisniewksi will miss the rest of the preseason and first eight games of regular season play for the Blue Jackets, who just signed the journeyman defenseman to a six-year contract.

Brad Staubitz Blindsides Cody Bass

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    Blindside hits are receiving as much attention from Camp Shanahan as shots to the head, as they can be equally dangerous.

    Shanahan's video explanation for Brad Staubitz's hit leaves no question as to why the Minnesota forward will spend the beginning of the season in the press box.

Jody Shelley Puts One on the Numbers

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    Last year, Raffi Torres got away with blowing up Brent Seabrook because it was a play that took place behind the net.

    No such exception was made for Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley, who nailed Toronto's Darryl Boyce with a blindside hit.

    Boyce, unaware of Shelley, had his chest squarely to the boards in a position defined as defenseless. Hitting a player squarely between the numbers is a sure-shot way to get oneself suspended, as Shelley has been for 10 games in total, including five in the regular season.

Flames' Letourneau-Leblond Boards Matt Clackson

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    A classic boarding call, Shanahan's video clearly lays out why Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond was hit with a five-game benching for boarding, and why the responsibility did not lay with Matt Clackson to avoid putting himself in a vulnerable position.

    With the Vancover Canucks forward fully unaware of Letourneau-Leblond, and placed just a few feet from the boards, the hit is dangerous, avoidable on Letourneau-Leblond's part and indefensible on Clackson's part.

    That Clackson was so vulnerable to a check from behind was enough to earn a five-game ban (the rest of the preseason and the Flames' season opener).

Brad Boyes Earns 2 Games

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    On this play, Brad Boyes clearly shifts his weight to make contact with Joe Colborne and his head becomes the principal point of contact, invoking rule 48.1.

    Because Boyes did not extend his arms, and because this is his first such incident, he earned only a two-game suspension.

Chris Neil Takes out Defenseless Grabovski

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    Ottawa goon Chris Neil took out Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski with a cheap shot Tuesday, a hit that will certainly be reviewed by the league.

    Grabovski was nowhere near the puck, making for an obvious interference call. That Neil went out of his way to hit Grabovski while his focus was away from Neil makes the hit a bit of blindside shot, and open to supplemental discipline.