One thing is clear from the abundance of thuggery in this year’s NHL playoffs. The application of supplemental discipline is as inconsistent as it has ever been.
Shortly after Carl Hagelin was given a three-game suspension for his head shot that knocked Senators captain out of Game 2 of the series, the Rangers issued a statement saying they were ‘thoroughly perplexed’ by VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan’s ruling.
The confusion isn’t limited to the Big Apple.
In one respect, the league can’t be faulted for taking the well-intentioned initiative to curb the epidemic of head injuries. While Hagelin’s punishment is heavy-handed considering the length of the duration in what is now a best-of-five series, the loss of one of Ottawa’s most important players warrants the severity.
What frustrates the teams and the fans is the apparent discrepancy in leniency towards other offenders who are also guilty of potentially inflicting serious injury – either deliberately or recklessly.
The Hagelin ruling comes four days after the most egregious non-suspension in recent memory, namely the $2,500 slap on the wrist assessed to Nashville’s Shea Weber for driving the face of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at Bridgestone Arena; an act that harkened back to the days of classic professional wrestling.
The absence of an injury to Zetterberg should not have been enough to exonerate Weber. Brian Boyle was well enough to recover from Matt Carkner’s punch-up to score a goal in the same game, and yet Carkner still received a one-game ban for fighting with an unwilling combatant.
Further attempts to decrypt the league’s algorithm to determine the length of suspensions reveal that the presence of an injury to the victimized player isn’t always a prevailing factor. At the beginning of the season, Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur sat for Toronto’s last pre-season game and first two regular season games for what was termed to be a reckless head shot to Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader.
In what was one of the first of many of Shanahan’s explanation videos, it was acknowledged that Abelkader suffered no injury on the play. So it seems that MacArthur was unfortunate enough to time his infraction to occur during a pre-season blitz over which nine suspensions were issued.
The lack of any supplemental discipline to Weber makes the initiative less relevant. And six months later, still no one is really sure what constitutes a suspension.