The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/13/11 at 05:08 AM ET
You know how, every once in a while, someone makes an incredibly astute observation and then chooses to continue speaking, sticking his or her foot in their mouth in the process? Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton, who just happens to find himself suspended for eight games, told the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest that he feels players must be allowed to appeal their suspensions, lest NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan turns into the same sort of wheel-of-justice-spinning totalitarian as his predecessor, Colin Campbell…
“There absolutely should be (an appeal process),” Sutton said. “My only course of action is that I can appeal to Gary Bettman. That’s not going to change anything. Going forward in the new CBA we have to make strides in that regard. We should have an impartial arbitration committee that’s going to take a look at this have my people on my side, have the NHL on their side and have an independent party that’s going to make these decisions. It’s not just one guy making all these decisions.”
Sutton was allowed to state his case on both occasions with Shanahan. The first time he travelled to New York to meet in person. In regards to the Ponikarovsky hit, Sutton spoke his piece over the phone. Had Sutton believed he could have swayed Shanahan’s opinion, the six-foot-six, 245-pound defenceman would have probably made the trip. However, he’s in a growing group of people around the game that is frustrated with the process.
“It’s a big hot-button issue for the NHLPA going into the next negotiation, it has to be,” Sutton said. “You can’t have it set up when it’s just Shanahan’s decision and then your only course of action is to go to his boss [Gary Bettman—George’s note], who has never played a game of hockey in his life. How is that a good setup? It’s not. It’s a flawed process, and it needs to be changed. You can’t just go around taking people’s money.”
That being said, Sutton doesn’t seem to be all that remorseful about the hits which led to his suspensions, and instead, he’s tossing out the, “It’s the player I hit who’s at fault if he doesn’t keep his head up” theory:
“Obviously I wasn’t very happy about it. They make the decisions and unfortunately we have to live with them. I don’t have much in the way of recourse in any way, shape or form,” Sutton said. “It’s hard the way they have things set up now. You come in with the best of intentions and a slight body change by the guy you’re hitting, or maybe timing, if your timing is a hair off, it goes from being a good hit to a bad hit, just like that. Even when I hit (Jeff) Skinner later in the game, it could have gone the other way if he just moved subtly in a certain direction. It’s walking a fine line and I feel like I’m getting the brunt of it.”
“At a certain point we have to start keeping our heads up and knowing who’s on the ice,” Sutton said. “You can’t be skating around with your head down and not expected to get hit because everyone is going to get suspended. There has to be ownership all the way around. I feel like the guys are learning but we don’t have the balance just right yet. It’s changed so much since I started, in so many ways. So this is just another dimension for us to get used to.”
One might think that if Sutton can acknowledge that he can make slight and subtle changes to his hits to avoid injuring players, he might want to take 5% off his hits in an attempt to separate players from pucks instead of knocking them into next week just becaues he’s 6’6” and 250 pounds in shorts and a t-shirt.
He certainly has a point about the fact that the NHLPA must already be pretty p-o’ed about Shanahan’s ability to take millions of dollars out of the pockets of players with no sort of “suspension cap” or assurance that the money is actually spent by the league’s player assistance fund, and I would have no problem with some sort of appeals process sliding in given the severity of Shanahan’s suspensions, but he was given the mandate to crack down on the kinds of, “I was just finishing my check, and it’s not my fault that the other guy got hurt” attitudes which have led to far too many injuries by both the NHL and the NHLPA.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.