by PuckStopsHere on 04/30/09 at 02:03 AM ET
When I commented on Daniel Carcillo’s suspension, I assumed that suspensions would get harder to come by as the playoffs went on. This does not seem to be the case yet. In fact Donald Brashear of the Washington Capitals was suspended for six games after two altercations in game six of the Caps series with the New York Rangers. During the pre-game warm up, Brashear shoved Colton Orr of the New York Rangers. For this he was suspended for one game. Orr was a healthy scratch in the game, so nothing further occurred between the two of them. In the game he gave a late hit to the head to Blair Betts. The hit came from behind so Betts was taken by surprise by it and suffered a broken orbital bone (the bone surrounding the eye). For the hit, Brashear was suspended for five more games giving him a total of six games in his suspension.
Given the NHL’s precedent of shorter suspensions in the playoffs in years past, a six game suspension is a surprise. It is far longer than expected. The play does not fit the NHL’s stated goal of cracking down on “sending messages” when the score in a game gets out of hand as Brashear’s hit on Betts came in the first period with a 1-1 score. However, Brashear is the kind of player the NHL wants to suspend. He is a goon with little offensive value. Washington can replace him in their lineup with little trouble.
Brashear has over 2500 career penalty minutes. At one time he was considered the toughest man in the NHL - though those days are gone since he is now 37 years old. This season Brashear only scored four points. He is clearly a goon with little hockey value. Suspending him sends the message that the NHL will not tolerate players like that. It allows the NHL some cases to point to when a star player avoids a suspension (or gets a shortened one) to show they are tough on unruly behavior.
In the NHL, suspensions are tied into marketing of the league. It is good for business for the league to be able to show they are tough on goon players with little hockey value. It is good for business to suspend that kind of player for lengthy periods of time. It is bad for business to suspend star players. Star players draw fans to the games. Star players decide playoff series and the NHL does not want to be seen as deciding who wins in the playoffs by suspending star players. That creates a double standard. A star player would not have had nearly as a big a punishment as a Donald Brashear would for the same actions.
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