Monday, November 14, 2011

Fans Want Consistency

Someone has obviously sat Brendan Shanahan down and told him to slow down and pull back. During the preseason he was handing out suspensions on all kinds of hits, setting what many thought was a dangerous precedent and would change the way the game was played. Don Cherry was his loudest critic, pointing out players who were going in for soft hits, or avoiding hitting altogether.

Cherry was criticizing Shanahan for the three game suspension that Toronto's Clarke MacArthur was issued for his hit on Justin Abdelkader. MacArthur didn't raise an elbow or his shoulder to hit Abdelkader, rather issued a clean open ice hit, that made incidental contact with the head. Abdelkader only missed his next shift due to the penalty he took trying to gain retribution on the hit.

Since the preseason, suspensions handed out by Shanahan have dropped significantly. So much so, that when Milan Lucic delivered a devastating hit to Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, he was not issued a suspension or fine. Now there are some out there that consider the fact that Miller was significantly out of his crease, playing the puck, and should be aware of what's going on and is fair game. However, the rule book says quite differently. Rule 42 states that "a minor, major or a game misconduct shall be imposed on a player who charges a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within his goal crease. A goalkeeper is not 'fair game' just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."

Lucic received a penalty for the hit, but that's it. Miller is now out with a concussion. Lucic's own goalie did not like what he saw, and was worried about retaliation. “I will say that as a goalie, you’re not really prepared for people to hit you in a situation like that,” Thomas said. “You’ve been trained over the course of your whole career [to believe] you’re not going to get hit in situations like that. It must have taken him by surprise.” There is no touching the goalie. No if ands or buts about it. Buffalo showed class by not seeking retribution against Boston's goalie.

I watch this hit on Miller and wonder how Shanahan can justify his suspensions on MacArthur and others in the preseason but completely back off in the season when it matters more, and not give any kind of penalty for what happened. Shanahan is now facing harsh criticism due to this decision, having to defend himself at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but no one seems to agree or stand behind his decision. He has dug himself a hole in the preseason and needs to be consistent or else it looks as though he's not capable of doing the job properly.

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