The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/27/13 at 06:36 PM ET
It's not every day that you're woken up from your "pregame nap" by your boss, informed that the NHL's director of player safety wants to speak with you about the league's decision to not suspend Jared Cowen for his elbow on Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, but that is what just happened to me, so...
Ahead of tonight's game against Boston, which looks to be the second of at least three or four missed by Datsyuk, who may or may not have a concussion, I'm just going to write down what happens as it happens, thank Mr. Shanahan for his time and state that I happen to disagree with the league's decision but obviously assume that the NHL makes measured decisions in the player discipline regard.
So now I'll wait for his call, and when he calls, I'll write down what he says.
May as well do this in "real time," as it were, and while I'm at it, I'll note that Herm to Hockeytown 3 is taking place over on the Production Line this month.
To say that I was shocked to be informed that Shanahan wanted to speak with me was a little shocking is an understatement, and to hear, "Well, I've been talking with Kenny Holland, and you're a good voice for the Wings" is more than a little flattering, so all of this comes as a big surprise and it's not taken lightly.
One still must stick to one's guns, however, and while I get the feeling that I'm going to be told that the Datsyukian deke Pavel made against the grain will be the deciding factor...
Pavel Datsyuk, who won’t play Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins, skated roughly 10 to 15 minutes before many of his teammates got on the ice.
Holland said afterwards Datsyuk won’t play Friday and isn’t sure if he’ll make the trip to Ottawa for Sunday’s game.
“He skated a little bit,” Holland said. “I just talked to him. He feels OK. He’s not going to play on Friday. He needs two or three days of practicing all-out so it’s a day to day thing.”
Datsyuk suffered what’s believed could be a concussion late in third period of Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Senators after taking an elbow to the jaw by Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowan.
Todd Bertuzzi (upper-body injury) also skated with Datsyuk.
Or, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan put it...
It's likely Datsyuk won't play Sunday in Ottawa, so the next target is Dec. 4 when the Red Wings return home to play Philadelphia.
That's four games, minimum, for the Wings' top player to miss.
Shanahan was apparently on the NHL Network, as Kayla Martz noted--and her editorial comments aren't mine...
I figured that it'd be really hard. An elbow that sticks out versus a last-second deke against the grain. It's not easy at all.
Okay, so Shanahan calls me at 5:15.
He says that there are two qualities to the particular play.
The first was that when the rules for boarding and illegal checking to the head were changed, one of the things the competition committee and GM's said was that they wanted the NHL, in terms of supplemental discipline, to take a note when there's been a change, if a player's ducked, turned just prior to the hit, presented his back toward the boards, etc.
He says there's a lot of consideration to contact with the head, as to whether a player changes direction quickly just prior to a check to the head.
Datsyuk does what any player would do, rather than take a hit, when the guy is trying to deliver a hit, Datsyuk cuts back to avoid the hit, but that contributes to the contact. He stops but his head lowers significantly.
On the other angle, the contact that Cowen makes with his elbow, is it trying to elbow him in the head or is he just getting beaten and trying to make contact.
He says that the league would've felt differently if the elbow went upward, but because Datsyuk went down, it's undeniable that there's head contact made, but Cowen's finish, when you look at elbowing suspension videos like Erskine, Bourque, Winchester, the player shoots a tucked elbow at a guy and it remains tucked the entire time. In this situation Cowen's glove, from the angle behind the net, isn't a predatory elbow shooting at Datsyuk's face, instead he's in the act of straightening his arm.
The league then also tries to determine from their perch why Datsyuk goes down because he doesn't have a history of going down, he's not embellishing despite the CBC guys' suggestions that he was trying to draw a penalty.
Shanahan feels that looking in the crystal ball, if you knew that the player was still dealing with the issues 3 or 4 days later, you feel bad about the decision, nobody wants to see a player as respected or popular as Datsyuk hurt, but at the time, they had to jam the thought process into a short period of time due to the back-to-back games for the Senators...
And it's a situation where in spite of the good work it wasn't a perfect situation for them. Regardless of the decision they made it and why the decision was made--and the Department of Player safety stands by their decision--they do feel bad about Datsyuk.
What they want the fans to know is that this was a decision made in a short period of time, that it's the 23rd when they make the decision and now, on the 27th, they can't go back and redetermine the situation based upon a player injury whose severity they did not know at the time.
Long story short, they felt that the elbow wasn't malicious, and based upon the time frame the injury or lack of apparent injury simply didn't have the time to play into their thought process given that the Senators and Hurricanes were playing a 5 PM game on Sunday, as were the Wings, who left Datsyuk behind not knowing if holding him out of the game for precautionary reasons was due to an abundance of caution or a concussion.
Shanahan stated that he essentially told me what he told Ken Holland, and he felt that he needed to tell the fans what ultimately Holland has to tell to the Ilitches (and I would presume to Mike Babcock and Pavel Datsyuk) about a player who the Red Wings and their fans are very concerned about.
He also told me that he called me because, in a situation involving a very high-profile player, I at least offered a, "I think this is what their thought process will be" suggestion that the NHL wasn't going to blow this off, but was instead going to think the situation through and review it as thoroughly as possible despite the tight timeline...
And Shanahan just wants everybody to know that the NHL's Department of Player Safety does indeed review these hits and reviews them incredibly thoroughly. He told me that they'd looked at it from multiple angles, had considered the Datsyukian-deke-against-the-grain and whether Cowen was directing his body or simply his elbow at Datsyuk's head, and whether Cowen was attempting to elbow Datsyuk's head or simply get some sort of body part on a player who was going to beat him to the puck and to the net.
I thanked Shanahan for his time and his efforts while admitting that I am a Red Wings fan who pretends to be a blogger, that I feel that Datsyuk's health is paramount above anything else, and that I disagree with the decision while respecting the time, energy and effort that he puts into the reviews.
That's just the truth. I still really, really, vehemently disagree with the ruling, and as a Red Wings fan, I'm still very angry about what happened and I'm very afraid about Pavel's health going forward as it affects both Pavel and the team.
I've had a bad concussion. They're scary as hell to go through and they're terrifying more for their uncertainty than the effects thereof as you just don't know how your brain is going to heal, or what its timeline might be. For me, it took six months to a year to get my head on straight, if you will, after taking all of a slip and fall, and I'm writing this in the dark because I've got light sensitivity issues. I don't want that to happen to Pavel.
But Shanahan's intonation was that nobody wants that to happen to Pavel, the league included, and that he and the Department of Player Safety feel that they made the absolute best assessment of the situation as the information available to them was placed against time constraints.
That's no cop-out. It's the truth, and while I still disagree with their ruling, I do respect "the process"...
And, mostly, I really hope that Pavel gets better soon, because his health is integral to the Wings' success, and his health is incredibly important to the Red Wings organization, its management, coaches, players and especially the Wings' fans.
So it's 5:35, I got woken up at 4:50, and this is what happened.
Update: For the record, it was really nice to hear Shanahan say, "I read your stuff."
added 6:23pm by Paul, video of Shanahan on NHL Live today explaining why no suspension.
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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.