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Suspensions In The Playoffs

The NHL has had problems with consistency when suspending players for years.  With Brendan Shanahan coming in as the NHL’s vice president in charge of suspensions there was hope things would change.  The early return from the playoffs is that nothing has changed.

One problem the NHL has long had with suspensions is that they have not wanted to appear to decide playoff series with their suspensions.  Therefore star players are less likely to get suspended than role players.  That is exactly what we saw after the first day of playoff games.

Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards as time ran out in game one of their series.  Weber was given a two minute roughing penalty and after review from Shanahan an additional $2500 fine but no suspension.  This was a play worthy of a suspension, but it would be a suspension that could play a big role in deciding the Nashville vs. Detroit playoff series, so no suspension was given.

In the second period of the first game of the Vancouver vs. Los Angeles series Byron Bitz hit Kyle Clifford from behind.  It was a “head-shot” that earned him a five minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct.  After review Shanahan gave Bitz a two game suspension.

Both plays were dangerous.  Bitz’s hit had more force and was probably more serious.  Weber’s was more preventable as it happened as time ran out in the game.  Both plays were suspension worthy.  The role player in Byron Bitz received a suspension and the star player in Shea Weber did not.  That is consistent with the NHL’s suspension patterns in the Colin Campbell days.  It looks like Brendan Shanahan is continuing down the same path and the hoped-for changes are not occurring.  The problem is that suspensions of big name players are bad for the NHL’s marketing so they do not happen.  With lesser players there no is problem with their suspension, so they can have the book thrown at them.

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Comments

Keyser S.'s avatar

The problem is that suspensions of big name players are bad for the NHL’s marketing so they do not happen.

It’s also bad for big name players to get badly injured during the playoffs. So I’m hoping a big name player on detroit gives weber a two hander right across the face.

Posted by Keyser S. on 04/13/12 at 01:57 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

It’s also bad for big name players to get badly injured during the playoffs. So I’m hoping a big name player on detroit gives weber a two hander right across the face.
Posted by Keyser S. from therealworldforum.com on 04/13/12 at 11:57 AM ET

But not so hard to actually cause HARM…because we know that’s ultimately what decides the suspension.  If Hank had only had the sense to fall down and start flailing around ala Jumbo Thornton maybe they could have gotten Weber the chair.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 04/13/12 at 02:10 PM ET

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But, that is a contradiction in itself, isn’t it?

Not suspending Shea would be influencing the outcome of the series, but allowing him to remain in the series without real consequence for a dangerous, reckless hit doesn’t affect the outcome because it’s OK since he is a “superstar”? His actions should affect the outcome - he targeted the head of his opponent. Shouldn’t he have a consequence for that action?

Whereas it is perceived that Bitz is inconsequential to the Canucks - but how do we know that he really is? Suspending him may have affected the outcome of the Kings-Canucks series. (probably not, but how do we know??)

There seems to be a very fine, blurry, subjective line here.

PS - I’m fine with the Bitz suspension.

Posted by Rob S from Toronto on 04/13/12 at 02:12 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

Posted by Rob S from Toronto on 04/13/12 at 12:12 PM ET

Exactly correct.  Wouldn’t potential concussions for Zetterburg or Clifford also effect the series in some way?

Ultimately it comes down to the mighty dollar.  They don’t want to soil an up and coming market in Nashville by having one of their stars sat for a home playoff game for jackassery that would get a lesser player suspended.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 04/13/12 at 02:19 PM ET

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Inconsistent?  The league doesn’t know what the f@ck it is doing and players don’t give a f@ck either so they openly mock the league to boot.  You saw it with Lucic on Miller who was all laughs and smiles and you see it today when Kostitsyn “jokingly” smashes Weber’s head in the boards during practice.

Don’t you have any pride?  Any shame? 

That’s like you scolding your child and they turn around and slap you in the face and you take it.

It’s a “rough and tough” league that is run by a bunch of cowards.

Posted by MTL_WINGS from Montreal on 04/13/12 at 02:29 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I’m curious - was Kyle Clifford’s helmet broken in three places? Zetterberg’s was.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/13/12 at 02:38 PM ET

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“Inconsistent” - therein is the problem. Or at least the perception by those outside the secret circle. The league claims to not want to influence the outcome of the series but by suspending and not suspending according to potential outcome instead of what actually happened - Z’s head was targeted (I didn’t hear about Z’s helmet and wooziness until long after the fine was handed to Weber) - as well as by “who” (I think we can all agree that Weber is a much better player than Bitz) is what makes us all make and wear the tinfoil hat. Especially when teams, that are popular and favoured to win (yes, even the Canucks), seem to be the victims of an unstated desire to give upstart markets an advantage. 

I would still like to believe in the nobility of the NHL - that they aren’t manipulating in favour of their desired outcomes, but it’s sure hard not to. What happened to Z was deplorable and by not taking a serious action seems to nullify all the suspensions and actions carried out this past year. What was the point?

Posted by Rob S from Toronto on 04/13/12 at 03:16 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

One problem the NHL has long had with suspensions is that they have not wanted to appear to decide playoff series with their suspensions.  Therefore star players are less likely to get suspended than role players.  That is exactly what we saw after the first day of playoff games.

This is exactly why I stopped watching the NBA.  The rule is the rule no matter how much money you make.  Calling it one way for a star and another for a regular player that contributes to the team is crap.  I think there is only one rule book, not two.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 04/13/12 at 03:16 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I can’t stand most of your stat driven drivel, but when you’re right, you’re right.

It wasn’t always this way. Maurice Richard, Ron Hextall, Dale Hunter and Chris Simon (all players of at least Weber’s caliber, except maybe Simon) received suspensions for playoff games.

To put on my tin foil hat for a moment, Shanny’s hatred of the Wings is very clear. There was a very clear intent to injure in what Weber did. He grabbed the head of an opposing player and repeatedly slammed it into the glass, breaking the helmet. In no way could this be construed to be a hockey play.

At least Bitz’s hit on Clifford was arguably a hockey play; he was attempting a legal check of a player with the puck. Even the LA announcers agreed it was more from the side than behind. The fact that it occurred in the corner lead to the boarding and the blow to the head. I think Bitz could make a good argument based on the video that there was no intent to injure and that the contact with the head was inadvertent. Weber’s conduct was just the opposite.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Z slept with Shanny’s girlfriend when Shanny was still with the Wings.

Tin foil hat off.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 04/13/12 at 03:33 PM ET

YzermanZetterberg's avatar

It’s enough to make you wonder if Z slept with Shanny’s girlfriend when Shanny was still with the Wings.

Based on the rumors about Mr. Shanahan’s days in St. Louis, that would be some serious karma (sorry, he’s not Shanny anymore…Shammy maybe, but not Shanny).

Maybe karma will take care of Mr. Weber too…

Like when good ol’ Sasquatch tried to apply his Prongerian physics to Stevie Y, but at the last second Stevie stepped out of the way and Chrissie wrecked his own knee…

Aaaah, those were the days, huh?

Posted by YzermanZetterberg on 04/13/12 at 03:59 PM ET

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Campbell would, on occasion and not always, decline to suspend a guy who did something illegal after that player was fouled unnecessarily by somebody else. The two I best remember are a Flying elbow by Gonchar on Clutterbuck to answer a really late hit (Campbell went on radio to discuss this and basically said Clutterbuck might have been suspended because he could have hurt Gonchar, but he thought Gonchar’s message spoke louder than a suspension) and another elbow by somebody on Matt Cooke after another late hit. Shanahan has the same bosses campbell does, so it’s possible Shanahan is doing the same.

With the Bickel-Clifford thing, there’s no context necessary. Bickel just fouls him randomly. It’s open and shut.

With the Weber thing, Zetterberg hit Weber straight in the numbers in the dying seconds of a game Zetterberg’s team was losing, causing Weber’s face to hit the boards. Wasn’t a big hit and probably wasn’t hard enough to be a dangerous one. But, seeing how Weber’s actions were only as a result of Zetterberg’s pointless numbers hit, the governors might well see it as on ice justice and thus, not needing anything beyond a token frown from the league office.

Just spitballing, but there’s more difference in these two plays than the names on the Jerseys.

Posted by larry from pitt on 04/13/12 at 04:12 PM ET

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“It wasn’t always this way. Maurice Richard, Ron Hextall, Dale Hunter and Chris Simon (all players of at least Weber’s caliber, except maybe Simon) received suspensions for playoff games.”

This post is just pure stupidity. Hextall was Weber’s caliber for all of 3 weeks, Hunter and Simon never were for a second. And apart from Richard (I assume, I doubt there’s video), they all did far more dangerous things without the mitigating factor (in the league’s eyes) of just being fouled themselves.

I mean, Simon only got one game for crushing a guy’s exposed throat with his stick. How is a 2500 fine for driving a guy’s helmet into the glass with your hand some type of miscarriage of justice on a scale where near fatalities get 1 gamers?

Posted by larry on 04/13/12 at 04:28 PM ET

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I’m not a fan of Detroit by any means but that was a pretty awful move by Webber.  It really reminded me of MMA fighting, that’s not hockey, if he wants to drop the gloves with someone that’s one thing but bashing someones face into the boards repeatedly and getting away with it makes the league look really bad.

Posted by Josey Wales on 04/13/12 at 04:48 PM ET

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the governors might well see it as on ice justice and thus, not needing anything beyond a token frown from the league office.

the governors should be reminded about Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore, and the affects of on Ice Justice.

Im not sure if i would be more disgusted if the league just wanted nashville to not lose Weber for playoff games or if this was an implicit endorsement of “on Ice Justice”

Personally, I dont see how any real progress can be made on headshots and player safety while vigilante justice is accepted.

Posted by jwad on 04/13/12 at 04:56 PM ET

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I mean, Simon only got one game for crushing a guy’s exposed throat with his stick. How is a 2500 fine for driving a guy’s helmet into the glass with your hand some type of miscarriage of justice on a scale where near fatalities get 1 gamers?

I can think of several reasons:
The rules have been changed, and hits to the head are supposed to be taken seriously, and punished more severly to act as a deterent and protect players.

Weber and Nashville only received a minor penalty, after time had expired.  So while they received a fine, they received no loss of personnel or man power disadvantage. 

When you consider Shea Weber earns over $850 every hour of every day(24/7/365 not game time), a $2500 fine, and with no penalty time or suspension, is essentially no punishment at all.

If it had happened at the end of the first period, and he received a game misconduct, your argument might be valid, that a fine isn’t a miscarriage of justice.  It didnt.  When you hit someone with clear intent to injure, and serve no time at all, it is absolutely a miscarriage of justice.

Posted by jwad on 04/13/12 at 05:29 PM ET

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“the governors should be reminded about Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore, and the affects of on Ice Justice. “

I wouldn’t expect much of them. The dinosaurs only objection to Bertuzzi’s actions are that theycreated bad press and the younger ones are so clueless as to believe slog hockey is more creative and watchable than the stretch pass, so what kind of judgment do they have?.

Posted by larry from pitt on 04/13/12 at 05:30 PM ET

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I can think of several reasons:
The rules have been changed, and hits to the head are supposed to be taken seriously, and punished more severly to act as a deterent and protect players.

Punches now are taken more seriously than stick fighting was in Hextall’s era? Or targeting someone’s throat used to be? That is absolutely not the case. Lucic punches someone in the head about once every three games.

Posted by larry from pitt on 04/13/12 at 05:35 PM ET

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I wish punches were taken as seriously as other hits to the head. 

but i think you missed my point. 

Even if you think what weber did was just a punch, which it clearly was not, Weber deserves to miss game time for what he did. 

comparing this to every historical suspension or violent act in the nhl is kinda ridiculous. 

Based on the current rules, and recent supplementary discipline decisions, this is clearly a miscarriage of justice.  Tiny fine, and 0 game time is essentially zero punishment

Posted by jwad on 04/13/12 at 05:43 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

As a former rugby player I loved the mantra of “Rugby is a hooligans sport played by gentlemen.” Things rarely ever got out of hand even for a split second. We would kill each other but never out of anger. It was always just good hard play. Never saw a punch being thrown and as a matter of fact we usually got together with the other team and enjoyed a couple beers afterward. Hockey could be this way but for some unknown reason it isn’t.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/13/12 at 06:15 PM ET

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Posted by jwad on 04/13/12 at 03:43 PM ET

I think you’ve missed mine. I haven’t said what the league should do or what such and such deserves. I’m not talking about what’s right or what deters or should punish what. All I’ve addressed is what the league has and does concern themselves with now and in the past. Based on what the league has and does concern itself with, this statement

“It wasn’t always this way. Maurice Richard, Ron Hextall, Dale Hunter and Chris Simon (all players of at least Weber’s caliber, except maybe Simon) received suspensions for playoff games.”

is moronic.

Posted by larry from pitt on 04/13/12 at 08:19 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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