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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Suspensions.... Suspensions....... Suspensions

This NHL preseason has seen pretty much everything: from banana throwing to alleged homophobic slurs. From amazing rookie plays to cheap head shots. After the first couple games of the preseason it was clear that Brendon Shanahan would not have to wait long to hand out his first suspension.

So far this PRESEASON there have been 23 suspension, more than ALL of last NHL season which only featured 22 (heard this stat on Leafs TV). The latest and biggest suspension handed out to James Wisniewski. Wisniewski was suspended the remaining 3 preseason games as well as a whopping 8 regular season games. The Wisniewski incident was from a hit to the head of Minnesota Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck after time expired in an exhibition game, the suspension will cost James Wisniewski $500K.

November 17, 2009 Shanahan announced his retirement from the NHL after playing 21 seasons; "I would like to thank my family and all of the friends who have helped me achieve and maintain my childhood dream of playing in the National Hockey League", Shanahan said in a news release. "I am enormously grateful to all of my coaches and teammates I've had the privilege of learning from and playing along side of, throughout my career. While I always dreamed of playing in the NHL, I can't honestly say that I would have ever imagined that I'd be this fortunate and blessed. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has helped me fulfill this dream" But Shanahan could not stay away from the game for long a month later he became the NHL's Vice President of Hockey and Business Development.On June 1, 2011 Shanahan took over the job of NHL's chief player disciplinarian from Colin Campbell who underwent much criticism for his lack of suspensions and not stopping head shots. It was clear that Shanahan needed to set a message that deliberate hits targeting the head would not be aloud in the NHL.This preseason Shanahan is sending that message, with suspension after suspension and his surprising videos explaining why each player was or was not suspended. Unlike Colin Campbell, Shanahan has the support of many NHL players and teams. Joe Thornton It’s good to see where he’s coming from and talk about why he’s suspending guys for so long,” Thornton said after Tuesday’s two-hour practice. “Players really appreciate that, and it’s now black and white.”

I think its extremely sad that the busiest person this NHL preseason has been the league disciplinary chief Brendan Shanahan. Preseason is about evaluating talent of rookies who are trying to make an NHL team, not trying to hit someone so they are injured. I believe Shanahan is sending a message that deliberate hits to the hit will not be tolerated as we are trying to cut down on head injuries. But this message is not being sent to the players, but more to the fans. In order for the NHL to get the players to pay attention and stop head hit is for the suspensions to be longer. If Shanahan were to give someone a 20 or 30 game suspension to set an example than maybe a player will think twice about delivering a cheap head shot. So yes Shanahan is tougher on suspensions than Campbell ever was; but do you remember when Mike Murphy was filling in during the Stanley Cup finals? He suspended Aaron Rome the remainder of the series for his hit on Nathan Horton! But as soon as the regular season starts, I think the suspension will be tougher and come across as more severe when it is actually the regular season and not the preseason. Obviously Shanahan isn't going to change things overnight and still has a little to learn about suspending players. But the Bottom line of all the Head Hits, is that players have a lack of respect for other players in the league. Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn said hitting players must learn to respect one another when it comes to collisions where one player has his back turned. “Hitting is going to be part of the game,” Schenn said. “But for sure, you have to let up or something when (a player has his back turned). It’s respect there, you have to respect that situation.

 Here is a list of the suspensions so far

  • Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond; received a a 5 game suspension (4 preseason + 1 regular season) for a boarding call after hitting Vancouver Canucks Matt Clackson from behind into the boards.“Letourneau-Leblond took a direct route toward Clackson, hit him squarely from behind into the boards and drove through the check high and hard. Clackson’s back was turned toward Letourneau-Leblond well before the contact, requiring that Letourneau-Leblond avoid or minimize the check. He did neither.”
  •  Jody Shelley received a 10 game suspension (5 preseason + 5 regular season) for his hit on Leafs forward Darryl Boyce. The hit broke Boyce's nose. “Shelley hit Boyce squarely from behind into the glass. Boyce’s back was turned toward Shelley well before the contact, requiring that Shelley avoid or minimize the check. He did neither."
  •  James Wisniewski received a 11 game suspension (3 preseason + plus 8 regular season) for his hit on Cal Clutterbuck. 
  •  Brad Staubitz received a 6 game suspension (3 preseason + 3 regular season) for his on hit on Coby bass which got Staubitz ejected from the game. "Staubitz drives hard through Bass' numbers and causes facial injury," Shanahan said in a video. "This factor weighed most heavily in my decision."
  • The Buffalo Sabres  Brad Boyes was suspended 2 preseason games for his hit on Joe Colborne. “Colborne’s head was the principal point of contact of Boyes’ hit,” Shanahan said in a video explaining the suspension. “While this play develops quickly, Colborne makes no sudden moves just prior to, or simultaneous with, the hit, placing the onus on Boyes not to hit him in the head."
  • The most interesting suspension handed to Jean-Francois Jacques who came off the bench to instigate a fight. Jacques was given a 9 game suspension (4 preseason games +5 regular season).
  • plus Shanahan has had 4 or 5 other hearings that did not result in suspensions.

Last preseason there were 2 suspensions handed out and this season their have already been 6
suspensions and likely one or two more based on what were seeing right now. There is almost an "illegal" or "cheap" hit in every game that is being looked at.
All in all I am extremely disappointed with the players of the NHL, they need to take more responsibility and "man up" by not "killing" players with head hits. But I am extremely happy with the way Shanahan has been handling these preseason suspensions. Right now I would say the suspensions are warnings; they are not horrible but not super easy. Basically Shanahan is saying to the players "keep this up in the regular season and the suspensions will get worse". I love how Shanahan has been '"xplaining" his decisions to fans and team, really making sure that the rules are clear as mud! What I hope for Shanahan is to keep the suspensions fiar, if a Big league player delivers an illegal hit that player will still be peanilized because if that top line player is not, than all the progress Shanahan has gotten will be demolished. One thing is clear Shanahan will be having a VERY busy year with lots of suspensions and hearings with players.

I'll post a link to Shanahan's videos :)

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