The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/12/12 at 06:51 PM ET
Updated with Roenick reaction at 11:55 PM: I am admittedly not up to full speed (sorry) and not swimming in commentary for the Wings’ and out-of-town press like 55 feet of Lake Superior water after jumping in off the end of a 2,700-foot-long pier (which is actually a nice feeling, and I miss it), so I can’t claim to have my pulse on the hockey world’s reaction to what I will suggest is a surprising $2,500 fine to Shea Weber for introducing Henrik Zetterberg’s face to the end boards at the end of last night’s 3-2 loss (and if you missed it, Paul Gaustad’s slashing match with Pavel Datsyuk, which resulted in Todd Bertuzzi delivering what Barry Trotz described as a “haymaker,” was just as vicious)...
But I feel that it’s necessary to provide something of a counterpoint to the Chief while sticking my still-re-acclimating and not insubstantially-sized nose into the discussion:
Given the circumstances as an end-of-game altercation, given Weber’s relatively clean reputation and given this bluntly-worded statement from the “Department of Player Safety,” we at least know that the NHL very honestly and openly admits that, in the playoffs, even when Jeremy Roenick goes apesh*t over something, there simply is a different and higher standard for player suspensions in the playoffs, and that injuries or the lack thereof play significant roles in the DPS’s decision-making process:
Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber has been fined $2,500, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for delivering a blow to the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg in Game 1 of the teams’ Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Nashville on Wednesday, April 11, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
The incident occurred at 20:00 of the third period. Weber was assessed a minor penalty for roughing.
“This was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg’s head into the glass,” said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. “As is customary whenever Supplemental Discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2.
“This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs.”
The fine money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
What’s left unsaid is equally obvious: had Zetterberg not boarded Weber, albeit without the same kind of force that Weber delivered to Zetterberg’s head, prior to the altercation played a role in the decision-making process as well, providing Weber with something of an “out” as his actions were not exactly unprovoked. They were as DPS suggests, reactionary.
So what does this indicate about the integrity of the NHL’s DPS or Shanahan? That they’re going to be consistent and follow the standard applied by Colin Campbell in that some games, namely playoff ones, are “more equal” than others when it comes to suspending players for any length of time, and while that may annoy Wings fans like you or me, that’s just the way things go when you’re talking about suspending a player 1 or more of a maximum of 28 games as opposed to 1 or more of a maximum of 82 games.
The rules are different in the playoffs, and just as we witnessed on Wednesday, while the referees may choose to impose stricter standards of enforcement in terms of minor penalties when Gary Bettman is in the house and the Detroit Red Wings are playing (so everybody “gets the message”), the DPS is burdened by its history, and its history basically indicates no concussion or decapitation sans provocation, no suspension. That’s how it works.
Just as importantly, as Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Wings’ press corps, Detroit has neither the discretionary personnel nor the luxury of throwing a game via a major penalty and/or suspension taken for intent to injure Weber for the sake of revenge, and that’s simply not how they play, so we should not expect anything more than perhaps a few extra shoves with Weber in a scrum—perhaps from Zetterberg himself—and what the Wings hope to accomplish in a relentless but clean attempt to establish a harder, nastier and more physical but legal forechecking presence in Nashville’s zone, greater engagement in terms of physicality thanks to a now-palpable hate factor, and hopefully more traffic win front of and perhaps occasional contact with Pekka Rinne as Detroit has to match or exceed Nashville’s net-front presence and layers of screening players to beat a goalie who will stop every shot that he sees.
There will be no vigilante justice, there will be no gratuitous fight, there will be no purposeful intent to injure aside from the fact that in the playoffs, players do in fact hit to hurt, not just make their opponents sore, and as we all know, while the Wings will not give an inch, they just aren’t built to engage in a slug-fest unless you call a slug-fest baiting opponents into losing their better judgment and resolve by a deftly-applied jab back in a scrum or three and capitalization upon the power play.
That’s how they roll, for better or worse, and the fine on Weber really goes above and beyond anything that I thought the NHL would give Weber for a hit that did not result in an injury. It’s not what you or I want to hear—I will readily admit that as a very subjective Red Wings fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing Weber spitting a few teeth out of his mouth after a donnybrook, because I’m as human and partisan as you are—but that’s how it’s going to go.
One more thing: regarding Weber and Trotz’s comments from last night/ Trotz wouldn’t have been doing his job if he did anything other than to deflect blame from his player and to attempt to suggest that something the other team did was worse. Coaches don’t have to tell the truth during the playoffs: their job involves protecting their team’s best interests, lobbying the refs and the NHL and doing their best to protect their players. I don’t like what he said, but I didn’t expect anything different.
I’m very glad that Zetterberg’s helmet did its job in breaking to absorb the catastrophic impact instead of transferring the energy of the blow to Zetterberg’s head, too. I think he may have sold more than a few Warrior helmets by emerging relatively unscathed.
Update: Here’s Jeremy Roenick’s take:
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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.