Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Ridiculous Andrew Shaw Suspension

The NHL has suspended the Chicago Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw for three games for this...action? I hesitate to even call it a hit, even though the Phoenix Coyotes' Mike Smith did his best to make it look like the Kennedy Assassination. In complaining about this decision, I worry that I'm going to sound like a homer; lucky for me, it's already clear that Brenden Shanahan and the Office of Player Safety have been all over the place this playoff season.

In the Weber hit (as previously discussed), the absence of injury was a major factor. In this case, it's not. In the Carkner fight, Carkner's history of discipline was important; in the Weber hit, it wasn't. The Hagelin hit was worse than the Bitz hit because an elbow is worse than a shoulder, but Shaw shouldered Smith and got an equal fine. When goalies are involved, all the rules seem different, and in general, even though some of these things are explicitly covered by the NHL rule book with prescribed punishments, that apparently isn't enough.

Now, Shanahan himself has said that his job is about changing future behavior, and that necessarily requires making a few "statements" to get everyone's attention. I understand that. But the problems is, all of these statements, taken together, aren't giving anyone any guidance for their future behavior. Based on the above, it might actually be HARDER to know what a "clean" hit is than it was before. That's going to make it harder to protect the players, which is the whole point of Shanahan's office.

The worst part is that Shanahan was actually making really clear statements earlier this season. His "video press conferences" were incredibly useful; they explained what rule was implicated, what other factors were considered, what the player should have done differently, and why the punishment was what it was, all with helpful video breakdowns. It was a lot better than the NFL's whole "IT IS DECIDED" routine.

But now, there's no consistency, so there's no way of knowing ahead of time what behavior will and won't get punished. How is a player going to sort out all of the above in an action that lasts seconds at the most? Hell, at this point what's to stop him from hitting as viciously as he can in the hopes that he'll get Weber'ed after the fact? I don't know. Inconsistent punishment might as well be random punishment. And random punishment is not going to clean up the game or protect the players.

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