Monday Morning's Circus: Pacioretty vs. Letang vs. Shanahan

Jason Ham@@Jason_HamCorrespondent IINovember 28, 2011

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Brendan Shanahan speaks with the media prior to the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 14, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Max Pacioretty is scheduled for a phone hearing with head NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday morning to address one of the more blatant examples of a head hit in the NHL this year.

Pacioretty has been in the news up until very recently for being the victim of a decimating hit thrown by 6’9”, 260 pound behemoth Zdeno Chara in March 2011. The hit was of such a violent nature that it sparked Quebec police to launch an investigation into whether criminal charges would be pressed against Chara.

On November 17th, 2011, news leaked out that good sense and sound judgment had prevailed, and Chara would not be pursued by law enforcement officials.

Do I think the hit was clean? Absolutely not. People say that it was unintentional and that the hit was a matter of poor timing and circumstance, but I don’t buy it. It is Chara’s responsibility to eliminate the opposition physically when in that position, I’ll give him that. But he knew exactly where the edge of the glass began, believe me. I’ve thrown that hit before and knew what I was doing. Thankfully for the health of the player I hit, I wasn’t 6’9, 260 pounds when I threw it.

Pacioretty suffered what the Montreal Canadiens revealed to be a “severe concussion and non-displaced fractured fourth cervical vertebra in his neck.”

I believe he was hurt, no question. But I also believe the severity of the injury was embellished. Max was on the ice three weeks later. Severe concussion and essentially a broken neck... hmm.. seems to me that either they didn't care much about his recovery, or he just plain wasn't that hurt to begin with.

Now, Pacioretty is on the flip side of the coin. He threw one of the dirtiest hits of the year on Pittsburgh Penguins’ star defenseman Kris Letang last night, breaking Letang’s nose in the process. No penalty was called on the play. You can view the hit here.

How this isn’t the EXACT hit that the league is trying to eliminate is beyond me. The refs missed this call, plain and simple. Now, Shanahan has his chance to make this right.

It is a pivotal moment for Shanahan. He came out guns blazing during the exhibition throwing five, eight and ten game suspensions around as if he was truly going to set the tone and instill some change in the NHL’s culture around head-shots. I wasn’t crazy about it at the time, but I was hoping for one thing: consistency.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that he couldn’t keep up with the pace he set during pre-season play this summer. Suspensions started to decrease to three games to one, then $2500 fines came along, and now it seems as though it has resorted to just a plain old fashioned stern verbal warning.

I fail to see the difference between what Colin Campbell did during his tenure, and what Brendan Shanahan is doing now. It’s so insanely inconsistent.

Shanahan needs to take this opportunity to get back on track. We don’t need him to swing for the fences, and I’m not picking on Pacioretty just because I'm a Leafs fan. If the league is serious about player-safety, they have to show it. This is the same hit that Richards threw on Booth and that Cooke threw on Savard. Habs fans may try to explain about how different it is and how clean this hit was, but the proof is in the pudding. Broken nose? Couldn’t that indicate a head shot? Possibly?

Now that Crosby is back, it seems as though people are forgetting all about concussions and head-shots. It is Shanahan’s responsibility to issue a reminder. If he doesn’t, the message is clear: the NHL disciplinarian process is, and always has been, a complete farce.