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What happens when Brendan Shanahan calls you to speak about Datsyuk’s injury/Cowen’s non-suspension

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...

Kerry Fraser didn't like the decision, and again, regardless of good or bad intent, the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness laid out Datsyuk's situation as follows:

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.

 

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

That’s as close to a “we were wrong” as we’re going to get.

I think the excuse is a cop-out though.  I figured they looked at it and did their due diligence; Never thought that they would skimp on that in the case of a star getting the elbow, but it remains that it looks like Cowen also adjusted to Datsyuk’s adjustment in such a way that guaranteed he made contact, which happened to be with the head.

That’s a reckless play and it absolutely should be a punishable offense.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/27/13 at 06:46 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Two thoughts:

#1.)  It’s actually good Shanahan called you.  It shows some effort on his and the league’s part.  They could have easily just ignored it and hoped it went away.

#2.)  That the league and/or Shanahan feel the need to do this though represents part of the ongoing problem, and that they know it.  But that it’s still a huge problem in terms of consistency.

There’s also the problem here of telling Datysuk he can’t make a Datsyukian move.  That is essentially what the league is saying and… can the league do and say that?  Who are they to say that?

Ultimately, the league is heading in one of two directions:  either no checking allowed at all, or this continued grey area and offense suffers, gets even less-creative and boring, and the game sludges down to where nobody really wants to watch it anymore because creativity is punished with a blow to the head.  How DARE you try and make a play while you have the puck!

Posted by Primis on 11/27/13 at 06:52 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

The league doesn’t want it to happen, but they won’t do anything to stop it.

And I guess as long as you are thinking of puppies and sunshine while throwing an elbow into another player’s head, you’ll be ok.

Posted by Hootinani on 11/27/13 at 06:53 PM ET

Chet's avatar

That’s as close to a “we were wrong” as we’re going to get.

agreed, JJ. it does look, esp. from the N-S angle, that cowen was aware he might get beat by datsyuk on a give and go to the point. then he does what he can to make contact and buy time—unfortunately with an elbow straight to datsyuk’s jaw. cowen has 22 points in 114 games. he’s not much of a player. he fights, he checks, he mouth breathes, i’ll bet. was it malicious? tough to say.

the problem i have with the non-suspension is that it’s been made clear over and over that hits targeting the head are a no-no, players are responsible for these hits, etc. etc. that datsyuk shifts position “against the grain” in no way changes any of that, and cowen’s play resulted because he was caught, not because datsyuk somehow brought the hit on himself.

what i most dislike about this is that the league is implying here, “we’re not going to protect the best athletes in the league against idiots like this.” reminds me of laraque’s knee on knee on kronwall a few years back.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 11/27/13 at 06:56 PM ET

TeamDub's avatar

Yes, the NHL take head/brain issues very, very seriously. Always.

Always.

Posted by TeamDub from The gratch. on 11/27/13 at 06:58 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Never thought that they would skimp on that in the case of a star getting the elbow

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/27/13 at 05:46 PM ET

They wouldn’t if he were wearing gold & black… red, white, and blue… or red and black.

And we all know this.  “Some are more equal than others”.

Posted by Primis on 11/27/13 at 06:58 PM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

That’s a reckless play and it absolutely should be a punishable offense.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/27/13 at 05:46 PM ET

Indeed. Nothing Shanahan says or does changes the injury to Datsyuk. It’s a shame the punishment never fits the crime.

Let’s Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 11/27/13 at 07:07 PM ET

Avatar

You know… from that other angle in the video cowen sticks his elbow out just too far for me to believe it wasn’t malicious. That’s what players with 22 points in 114 games do, they shake up your best players. That’s why when Sunday comes around we need to lay some hard checks into cowen and actually beat Ottawa. I’m tired of them and we’ve only played them twice this year. Out of all the teams I straight up hate, Ottawa is near number 1, it used to be San Jose but now I just want Ottawa to get embarrassed Sunday. When alfie scores a hate trick lol.

Posted by Pasha1277 on 11/27/13 at 07:10 PM ET

Avatar

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.

George, where I disagree with you is that this would apply if he was carrying the puck.  As Fraser pointed out in his assessment, the reason the call was missed is it happened well after Datsyuk passed of the puck.

Also from the angle shown, when Datsyuk cuts back, there is plenty of gap between him and Cowen.  He does not cut back into Cowens elbow which would then make shanahans explanation of accidental believable.  With the gap Datsyuk left beween himself and Cowen, the only way to initiate contact was to extend his elbow which he blatantly did.

To me Shanahans decision is unbelievably bad and I don’t understand why this would be a hard decision at all.  Regarding injury, Datsyuk left the game early so there was evidence of injury.  Also why was a decision needed to be made instantly because Ottawa had a game the next night.  When John Scott’s hearing was scheduled did he not have to miss the games up until the hearing?

This decision still leaves me totally confused and I think it’s pathetic that Fraser was the only mainstream commentator to address this after the John Scott fiasco and I think this was more a more blatant attempt to injure than Scotts.

Posted by longtimewingsfan on 11/27/13 at 07:12 PM ET

Peter10's avatar

I agree with Primis that consistency is the main beef people have with all this stuff. We see plays (actions) that look incredible similar yet the results are different…one gets 5 games the other one gets nothing. Maybe its because Shanny as an ex-player has a better understanding of it or maybe its because its indeed random.

Kassian for example got 8 games for his careless yet unintentional slash to the face of Gagner, but Gags was out for quite some time. Then we have other incidents were there was a clear intend to injure but for some lucky reason the other player “survived” it without an injury and there is no suspension or only a few games.

If there was a clear line on what is a suspension and what not and why a) deserves 5 games and b) only three games there would be much less discussion.

And eventhough Shanny and the DoPS put in a lot of work in explaning this things, it just feels so random. Whenever i watch those videos i feel like they could have explained it the whole other way around and make it sound reasonable.

Posted by Peter10 from Germany on 11/27/13 at 07:12 PM ET

Paul's avatar

I added a video of Shanahan on NHL Live today explaining the hit.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 11/27/13 at 07:25 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

Yes, the NHL take head/brain issues very, very seriously. Always.

Be careful posting that photo teamdub, some on this site will tell you to “get over” the fact no suspension was given to webber on that play. You all know who you are, and I have chosen to block you.

Congrats George/Paul it seems some of those in the ivory tower in NYC are paying a bit of attention to the site.

Posted by Down River Dan on 11/27/13 at 07:31 PM ET

Avatar

If Datsyuk skates with him instead of pulling up it’s a low to no impact one armed shove into the boards.  Which is probably why Datsyuk stopped on a dime while the bigger and clumsier Cowen went by and commenced his contact with a player that wasn’t there, resulting in the pushing arm going in front of Datsyuk’s face and catching the elbow.

There’s no way Cowen could have anticipated Datsyuk’s change of direction.

I think elbows and hits to the head should be penalized like high sticks.  An auto 2 minutes with the potential for a double or a 5 if there’s noticeable and immediate effect (like after a cut on a high stick).

The problem is, we aren’t there yet right now rules wise or even diagnoses wise, and I don’t want to start suspensions after the fact based on effect.  A hit to the head where the guy skates away is fine, but the same hit to the head where the guy drops to the ice and misses the net week calls for a multi game suspension?

Seriously, if that elbow is a half inch to one side or the other and misses his off button so he never drops in the first place are there calls for suspensions?  Of course not.  Guys get shoved, bumped, facewashed, shouldered and clipped in the head and neck area half a dozen times a game or more.

THAT’S the really, really dangerous part in terms of fair, rational enforcement.

That, and NHL officials are just generally pretty bad already.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/27/13 at 07:42 PM ET

Avatar

You all know who you are, and I have chosen to block you.

Heh.

Posted by Garth on 11/27/13 at 07:46 PM ET

Avatar

Why is “oh, he wasn’t trying to hit his head, he was just trying to make some form of contact” an excuse?

It’s a reflex, that’s all. And it had bad results. Get rid of the reflex.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 11/27/13 at 08:31 PM ET

RedMenace's avatar

Why is “oh, he wasn’t trying to hit his head, he was just trying to make some form of contact” an excuse?

It’s a reflex, that’s all. And it had bad results. Get rid of the reflex.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 11/27/13 at 07:31 PM ET

Punish the action, not the inferred intent or result of the action.

It’s really very, very simple:

Cowen gets a game or two for that - regardless of intent or result - more players start to think, “Hey, I should keep my elbows down… even if I don’t hurt someone, I could still get suspended.”

Malicious or not, injury or not, elbows to the head should not be an acceptable form of contact.

Also, big ups George for taking the Shanahan call professionally.

Posted by RedMenace from the Church of Jesus Lashoff on 11/27/13 at 09:06 PM ET

wedge56's avatar

Cowen intentionally threw the elbow out away from his body.

It contacted Pavel in the head hard enough to concuss him.

Accident or not, it’s a suspension.

See how simple I made that?

Posted by wedge56 on 11/27/13 at 10:15 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

Is there something in the CBA that mandates supplemental discipline be applied before the next game a player plays? I don’t see any reason the process should be rushed, particularly if they insist on accounting for the severity of the injury. Maybe its one thing at the end of the season with very few games remaining to apply any suspension, but in most cases its probably a good idea to let things cool off a little bit and let initial emotional reactions fade.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 11/27/13 at 10:51 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

All I can tell you is that Shanahan’s explanation was thoughtful, but the fact that I was on the phone with Brendan Shanahan, who reached out to me to explain what the department of player safety *team* (Mike Murphy, Kris King and others consult with Shanahan) felt were their limitations in terms of decision-making…

Made me no less likely to tell him at the end of the call that I was incredibly grateful for reaching out to me, but that I hoped he understood when I said that I am a Wings fan and a Pavel Datsyuk fan and that I disagreed with his decision.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/27/13 at 10:53 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

Just an idea on suspensions…When a player is suspended, I think he should automatically be suspended for the next game his team plays the opposing team of the player he injures.  Say maybe once for every 3 games he is suspended.  Could be carried over into future seasons and follows the player if he signs with a different team.  Then the team suffering the injury would also get something.  Just a thought I had.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 11/27/13 at 11:46 PM ET

Tracy from T-Town Hockey 's avatar

BTW Glad to hear you’re getting due recognition George.

Posted by Tracy from T-Town Hockey on 11/27/13 at 11:47 PM ET

SuperMatt75's avatar

+ 19 street cred for getting the call George; you gotta feel good about that.

Taking a call from a former Red Wing is a pretty cool thing, the fact that it was a Hall of Famer, a Stanley Cup winner, and an NHL big-wig is all just icing on the cake.

Well deserved recognition for you, and Paul, and the rest of the crew here at KK. Kudos.

Posted by SuperMatt75 from the cool side of the pillow on 11/28/13 at 12:43 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

Update: For the record, it was really nice to hear Shanahan say, “I read your stuff”

I’ll bring up that nobody has seen Shanny and Garth in the same room…

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 11/28/13 at 01:03 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

I understand his explanation BUT what bothers me is there were other GOON type incidents in that game that made it look like what was done to Pav was just one more goon tactic  ... were those things looked into?  I doubt it   and after what happened to Z in the playoffs and Weber and nothing done by Shanny seems the Red Wings always get screwed over when it comes to the officials ..... this is just one more thing .... and they wonder why us Red Wings fans complain. Its not just one thing its many

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 11/28/13 at 01:14 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 11/27/13 at 05:56 PM ET

the problem i have with the non-suspension is that it’s been made clear over and over that hits targeting the head are a no-no, players are responsible for these hits, etc. etc. that datsyuk shifts position “against the grain” in no way changes any of that, and cowen’s play resulted because he was caught

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 11/27/13 at 05:56 PM ET

the problem i have with the non-suspension is that it’s been made clear over and over that hits targeting the head are a no-no, players are responsible for these hits, etc. etc. that datsyuk shifts position “against the grain” in no way changes any of that, and cowen’s play resulted because he was caught

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 11/27/13 at 05:56 PM ET

the problem i have with the non-suspension is that it’s been made clear over and over that hits targeting the head are a no-no, players are responsible for these hits, etc. etc. that datsyuk shifts position “against the grain” in no way changes any of that, and cowen’s play resulted because he was caught

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 11/27/13 at 05:56 PM ET

 

FOR EMPHASIS ...hope Shanny reads that !!!!!!!  very well put Chet

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 11/28/13 at 01:20 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

Yes, the NHL take head/brain issues very, very seriously. Always.

Always.

Posted by TeamDub from The gratch. on 11/27/13 at 05:58 PM ET

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 11/28/13 at 01:21 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

You know… from that other angle in the video cowen sticks his elbow out just too far for me to believe it wasn’t malicious. That’s what players with 22 points in 114 games do, they shake up your best players. That’s why when Sunday comes around we need to lay some hard checks into cowen and actually beat Ottawa. I’m tired of them and we’ve only played them twice this year. Out of all the teams I straight up hate, Ottawa is near number 1, it used to be San Jose but now I just want Ottawa to get embarrassed Sunday. When alfie scores a hate trick lol.

Posted by Pasha1277 on 11/27/13 at 06:10 PM ET

  that would be the best payback and I hope Todd Bur Tooooozi is back wink

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 11/28/13 at 01:23 AM ET

MsRedWingFan's avatar

Maybe its because Shanny as an ex-player has a better understanding of it or maybe its because its indeed random.

Posted by Peter10 from Germany on 11/27/13 at 06:12 PM ET

 

Yes and maybe it is because Shanny used to play for the RW, he feels he will get acused for being biased but hes gone too far the other way and its wrong, wrong, wrong

Posted by MsRedWingFan from West Michigan hometown of Abdelkader on 11/28/13 at 01:27 AM ET

Avatar

I’ll bring up that nobody has seen Shanny and Garth in the same room…

Wait, what?  What are you talking about?

I, um, I gotta go…

Posted by Garth on 11/28/13 at 12:42 PM ET

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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.