by PuckStopsHere on 04/13/12 at 12:46 PM ET
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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