Oh Brendan Shanahan, I had such high hopes for you.
The NHL's new minister of justice, at least on the player safety side of the ledger, made several strong statements early in the season about punishing players for reckless and dangerous hits. Even though he did take injury into account, he also made it a point to know that the behavior itself wouldn't be tolerated.
But he's steadily slid back into the old erratic suspension style over the season, and he had perhaps his most glaring example of that Tuesday when he suspended James Neal, now of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for one measly game.
Now, on the surface, one playoff game might seem like a lot. But Neal had two separate headshot attempts in less than one minute in Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers, both of which left the recipient at least dazed. And he is a multiple-time repeat offender, with a suspension in 2009 and this season as well as two warnings this season.
And really, the most ludicrous part might be this statement from Shanahan's video where he attempts to explain the suspension. This is regarding the initial hit on Sean Couturier.
While we are willing to accept Neal's assertion that he was jumping to brace for an unintended collision...
Um, pardon the term, but bull. For one, players don't jump to brace for a hit. Jumping puts you more off balance than having both skates on the ice and far more susceptible to landing wrong and tearing something. Additionally, any hockey fan with half a brain could see there was nothing unintentional about that hit.
So for the record - despite being a multiple time repeat offender, the first hit was considered legal and accidental and the second leaping headshot within a minute just worthy of one game, the same amount a non-repeat offender got for a high cross check. I give up.
After the jump, more Ryan Garbutt's long and winding road to the NHL, suspension city and tabloids having fun with Photoshop.
- It was easy to forget at times that last Dallas Stars season was Glen Gulutzan's first tenure in the NHL, and Richard Durrett has a very good story on how he expects to improve this summer while drawing comparisions to another relatively new Metroplex coach. [ESPN Dallas]
- While you were busy with your normal Tuesday afternoon, Mark Fistric was helping raise money for breast cancer research and awareness by giving away free ice cream. [DallasStars.com]
- I like Ryan Garbutt for what he is, though I'm not sure I'd classify him as a "prospect" in the traditional terms. And this story does a good job tracing the long and winding road he took to get to the NHL. [The Hockey Writers]
- We brought you the news that the Texas Stars had fired their coaching staff. Here's how the local newspaper covered it. [Austin American-Statesman]
- One of the players who spent most of his season in Austin was Matt Fraser, and his goal-scoring ability at that level has to make him a candidate for promotion next year, or a least a long, hard look during training camp. [ESPN Dallas]
- There are lots of cliches with hockey, especially playoff hockey, talking about how hard work beats sheer talent. But why is that storyline so appealing to the North American sports fan? I think this essay has a very solid hypothesis. [Backhand Shelf]
- After the issues Shanahan has had with consistent discipline for dangerous hits, it's no surprise players continue to push the line. The most egregious example from Tuesday was Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes, who made a very similar hit to Neal's on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa that left Hossa unconscious on the ice. We'll see how this one plays out, but I expect multiple games. Of course, I expected that for Neal as well. [Arizona Republic]
- Tuesday suspension fun-times: Penguins forward Arron Asham got four games and Washington Capitals noted tough guy Nicklas Backstrom got one game. And coming down awkwardly late in the process, Andrew Shaw got three games for steamrolling Mike Smith. [SB Nation/Washington Post/Chicago Sun-Times]
- Ever wonder why players like Backstrom come into collisions like that with a stick up? Justin Bourne takes you through why he was told to do just that in juniors. [Backhand Shelf]
- You know, I think the Philadelphia media is really underplaying this whole "Sidney Crosby is a coward" thing. [Puck Daddy]
- To bring this thing full circle, here is Brendan Shanahan's video explaining Neal's suspension. If I didn't know it was real, I'd think the Onion produced this.