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“Shanahan Drops the Ball”

Yesterday, Brendan Shanahan certainly had an interesting day.  He had 2 disciplinary hearings scheduled regarding 2 incidents in the same game.  To make matters more interesting, the victim of one of the incidents was the transgressor in the other.  The result of these hearings?  Alexander Ovechkin suspended 3 games for charging Zbynek Michalek, while Michalek received no further punishment for his elbow to the back of the head of Matt Hendricks.  To me, this is one of the weirdest decisions rendered by Shanahan this year.

Before I get into this, I do want to state that I think that Shanahan has done a good job this season.  I think that compared to the baffling decisions by Colin Campbell over the last years, Shanahan’s no-nonsense approach and his detailed videos have been a god-send.  Also, take a moment to check out both videos. 

Let’s start with the Ovechkin hit.  Ovechkin clearly charges Michalek here.  We see him approach Michalek at high speed, and then leave his feet to deliver a hard check.  In doing this, a large amount of the contact is directed at Michalek’s head.  As Shanahan explained in the suspension video, Ovechkin might not be targeting the head, but because he leaves his feet, he becomes responsible for any illegal contact that follows.  I like this ruling.  Players should not be able to go jumping into other players and expect not to be disciplined because they didn’t “mean” to hit the head.  This is a similar situation to the one we saw when Buffalo’s Ville Leino was suspended back in early December.  In both situations, we have players playing in a dangerous manner, where the head of the opponents unintentionally becomes the target.

One possible explanation for Michalek appears to be that the when his knee hits Hendrick’s rear, it straightens which causes Michalek to drive forward.  Go back and watch the video and try to stop it right before Michalek contacts Hendricks.  Michalek clearly has his fore extending, preparing to finish off Hendricks.  That right there should be enough evidence to see that while Michalek might not be intending to board/elbow Hendricks, he is putting himself in a situation where a board is extremely likely.  Looking at Shanahan’s explanation regarding both Ovechkin and Leino, with regards to illegal contact while playing recklessly, I fail to see how Michalek walks away with nothing more than 2 more minutes in his PIM stat line.

Maybe it is my bias, but I think Shanahan straight-up dropped the ball on this one.  He could have made the perfect statements with this.  “Superstars will still be held accountable for their actions.”  “Being a victim of an illegal act does not give you one free pass.”  I don’t even think the suspensions should have been the same.  Ovechkin’s 3 games make sense given his history while Michalek’s has no history, to my knowledge, of bad checks.  To me, it just makes no sense.

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  Tags: alex+ovechkin, washington+capitals



I don’t really see any correlation at all between Michalek’s hit and Leino’s.  Leino stick his elbow out.  Michalek hit Hendricks in the back and his arm essentially slid up Hendricks’ back to his head.  No comparison.

At worst, I think Michalek’s hit was questionable.  I wouldn’t have had a problem with him getting one game, but I don’t think there was any “straight-up drop” of the ball on Shanahan’s part.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 01:27 PM ET


I am undeniably biased so I will not comment on either decision.  But as it relates to Shannahan I think the one area where they do drop the ball is an explanation of those hits that are deemed to be ok or not require further discipline.

I have disagreed with some of the decisions passed down this season but in almost every case, I am persuaded by the video explanation that shows exactly what they consider the issue.  In this case they opened themselves up to criticism by only saying why Ovie was suspended.  If it requires a meeting with a player it should require a video.

Posted by spi from Pittsburgh on 01/24/12 at 01:52 PM ET


I am a Pens fan. I didn’t see the game, but I’ve watched the video and I agree with your well-reasoned and well-written post. Ovechkin leaves his skates on almost every hit. When he was the league’s shining star, this seemed to count as “playing with passion.” Now that he is in an extended slump, the NHL is finally cracking down on his dangerous play. Go figure. No matter how we got to this point, he is a dirty and dangerous player who needed to be curbed. I think this should effectively discourage him from leaving his skates.

As for the Michalek elbow, I think it is punishable. He is not a repeat offender (as Ovie is) and his hit was much more innocuous. However, he still did put himself in a position—as you point out—where he could have made a dangerous hit. This in itself is reckless, and I think a fine was clearly in order. A suspension would have been too harsh though.

Posted by Nihar from Pittsburgh on 01/24/12 at 01:59 PM ET


I’m a Penguin fan, so I’m biased too.  I agree with the Ovechkin suspension, especially given his past history.  However, I do believe Michalek should have at least been fined for his hit.  he did get the head.  While he certainly isn’t that type of player and has no prior history, I think you have to send the message that that doesn’t matter.  Either a fine or one game would have been fine with me.

Posted by Mike Adams on 01/24/12 at 02:06 PM ET


I just think Shannaban would do himself and the players a service by clarifying all questionable hits.  They only focus on the ones that are bad and leave themselves open to criticism by keeping the non punishable hits a secret as to why no further action was needed.  Its more work but how much?  most of the ones reviewed require video it would be the exception to have the ones that are not.

My question now is will Z be deemed a repeat offender if he has another reviewable hit?

And I agree that Ovie has been doing this since day 1, knee on knee hits, elbows, charging, boarding.  It’s good to see that it was recognized and dealt with appropriately.

Posted by spi from Pittsburgh on 01/24/12 at 02:34 PM ET


My question now is will Z be deemed a repeat offender if he has another reviewable hit?

Is someone a repeat offender if they’re charged with murder and aren’t convicted?

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 02:41 PM ET


Now, given i am a caps fan, i would obviously agree with you that Michalek deserves something more than what was given. Ovechkin clearly deserves the 3 game for being a repeat offender, but just because Michalek doesn’t need some sort of punishment just because he hasn’t done this before. If you are aloud to do it once, you are likely to do it again. With Shanahan’s miss on this one, it leaves it available for Michalek to do it again with hopes of not being charged again. Maybe its because i am a washington fan, but either way its a clear miss. No doubt about it.

Posted by Brian Tate from United States on 01/24/12 at 03:33 PM ET


With Shanahan’s miss on this one, it leaves it available for Michalek to do it again with hopes of not being charged again.

That’s ridiculous.

Posted by Garth on 01/24/12 at 03:55 PM ET


I’d just like to know if Shanny plans to ever hold a player that illegally hits a Boston player accountable again.

Subban decks Krecji in the head on a follow through, nothing.
Cambell gets lowbridged in the same way the game Marchant gets a suspension for clipping. Ignored.
Nathan Horton gets a blind side head shot from a player with prior suspensions, similar to the Cooke hit on Savard, concussion effects return.  Not a peep. 

It’s the NHL Wheel of Justice all over again.

Posted by Realmk from Boston on 01/24/12 at 04:04 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Buffoonery from a Capitals fan again, OV gets away every frickin time he throws a check ! He Jumps every time ! he finally got nailed for this 1

Posted by Evilpens on 01/24/12 at 07:20 PM ET


Completely agree with this post.  At the very least, Michalek should have gotten a fine so that if something in the future does arise, he can (and should) be suspended.  The call on Ovechkin was right as well.

Posted by pens fan in baltimore on 01/24/12 at 09:31 PM ET

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Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

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