The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/02/11 at 05:56 PM ET
As everyone from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont and the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox (who suggests that it’s Colin Campbell, and not Shanahan, who “saved the game” back in 2005) to uncle Fred from Bent Elbow weighs in on Brendan Shanahan’s new status as the man who will don the NHL’s black hat when he succeeds Colin Campbell as the NHL’s disciplinarian, most pundits believe that, should Shanahan wish to separate himself from Cammpbell’s “Wheel of Justice”-style random rulings, he must establish a committee of experts who dole out supplementary discipline, as suggested by the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau...
They say you don’t make friends with salad and you certainly don’t make them by accepting Campbell’s now-former duties. Fairly or not, Shanahan will now have his motives examined, questioned and conspiracy-theorized about. You’d wish him luck, but he’d be better off being wished man-sized earplugs and a full Kevlar leotard.
The smarter thing to do would have been to set up a supplementary discipline panel of industry people. Former veteran referee Kerry Fraser and others have suggested that a three-person panel consisting of one league representative, one NHLPA official and a neutral third party. I love that idea. If you adopted it, you would remove the notion of individual bias in the decision-making process behind suspensions and fines. No one man would have the word “boogey” in front of his designation, because it would take two others to agree with the logic.
USA Today’s Kevin Allen agrees,—while suggesting that Shanahan should spend as little time as possible as the league’s disciplinarian should he wish to keep his reputation intact…
Nobody wants this job, and Bettman jokingly implied that he had to do a sell job on Shanahan to persuade him to take it. Actually my hope is that Shanahan does the job for just long enough to formulate a better plan for determining justice. I’ve always felt an independent three-person panel of retired NHL officials/referees and players would be the best way to decide matters — after NHL GMs laid out some sentencing guidelines, such as a five-game minimum for players who clearly target the head and five extra games for the second offense, etc. This panel can be reviewed and changed every year.
This would not be a perfect system, but it would be better than the system we have now.
And the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman suggests that Shanahan should at least seek out as many opinions as possible before making a ruling on his own:
7. Somewhat surprised Brendan Shanahan would want to take charge. That may be the hardest job in all of sports. You’re getting a constant barrage from executives, players, league officials, everybody. It’s a no-win position with ridiculously long hours and a ton of aggravation. Shanahan’s had a fast rise up the NHL ladder. This will really test him, particularly with Bettman saying he wants tougher suspensions. (And Donald Fehr in the back of the room listening as Bettman said it.)
8. Advice for Shanahan: In some ways, Campbell approached his job like a good reporter should approach theirs - by talking to as many people as possible. That number would get into the 20s on a particularly tough ruling. From my own experience, it becomes what Pinball Clemons calls “paralysis by analysis.” You hear so many things, you forget your own instincts. Go with them.
9. Supplementary discipline’s going to be an interesting one in the next CBA. Bettman doesn’t sound thrilled with the idea of making the decision by committee, which the NHLPA would like to explore. Plus, the union would like a different appeals process. Right now, appeals go through the guy who says he wants tougher suspensions.
Sometimes change is good, as is consensus-building. I do hope that Shanahan doesn’t spend the rest of his post-hockey career being the “bad guy,” and I also hope that he’ll have the sense to know that doing his job alone is an exercise in folly.
Update: Yahoo Sports’ Nicholas J. Cotsonika believes that a committee approach might not work:
Some will argue that the NHL needed to institute a panel to handle disciplinary decisions, but I’m not sure a panel is practical. I wonder if those same people would rail against a lack of transparency and accountability a panel would have by its very nature. And the thing is, the NHL already has operated with a de facto panel. When making tough decisions, Campbell and senior VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy often consulted a cross-section of people – other league execs, general managers, even players. But the buck has to stop somewhere.
“At the end of the day, someone has to make a decision,” Campbell said. “That will be Brendan’s job now.”
Shanahan will face the same challenges Campbell did in his later years. No longer can the league’s disciplinarian rule like an old-school sheriff, using instinct and experience as much as anything, handing down decisions with relatively little blowback, barking at an offending party and letting it all blow over. This is the modern world and a modern game.
Now we have high-definition television, super-slow-motion replays and YouTube, allowing everyone to dissect each split-second of each play, compare play to play, and point out inconsistencies from ruling to ruling. Hockey has always been a game of gray areas, but now there is more speed and hitting than ever before. Now there are controversies over concussions and the new rule banning blindside hits to the head – how it should be defined and applied. The general managers have said they want stiffer suspensions, and they have the good of the game at heart in a broad sense. But they have games to win and agendas when it comes to individual incidents.
That’s where it’s going to get really tough for Shanahan. Criticism in the media is one thing. Criticism from your peers is another. How is Shanahan going to feel when he starts getting flak publicly and privately from players, coaches and GMs – the people he respects the most, the people whose respect he values the most? I think he can handle it. I don’t think he’ll find it fun.
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