When Brenden Shanahan took over as disciplinarian of the NHL I was very excited. I felt that maybe there would be an end to the "discipline wheel of fortune" that we've seen since the lock out, and in the beginning it all seemed fine and dandy. Guy makes a dirty play, he gets suspended. Guy targets the head, he gets suspended. Guys with records get it worse than others... I get it. Guys without records get a little bit of lee-way, I get it. But there have been three incidents this year, all dealing with the Flyers that make me think we just went back in time to the Colin Campbell era, and that just isn't right. Lets take a look at each of the three plays after the jump.
From that dangerous area 3-8 feet away from the boards, Braydon Coburn puts on the breaks to play a puck. Jordan Staal is chasing him from behind. As Coby slows, Staal does not... he wants the puck and wants to get around Coburn. Coburn doesn't let him and uses his size to "box out" Staal. Staal basically says f*** that and shoves Braydon Coburn, from behind, into the boards with two hands extended. This is a taylor-made 5 minute boarding call with a suspension. There was no discipline at all (except for a $2500 fine... ) handed to Staal. I get that he didn't attempt to hurt Coburn, as evidenced by him immediately going to Coby's aid right after the hit---he knew he made an illegal play and just wanted to make sure Coburn was alright. If Coby doesn't get up or if Staal skates away, I wonder if that would be the case?
For starters, Briere fought Vlassic a few years ago, so there is evidently a history with these players. Briere approaches the puck in the corner just like Coburn above, and Vlassic throws Briere into the boards, head first, just like Staal did. Briere was down, there was no penalty, no whistle, and ultimately no suspension. Danny didn't miss a shift.
I want to make two assumptions regarding these two non-suspentions:
1. If either Coburn or Briere gets hurt for a long period of time (concussion related injuries) then there would have been suspensions.
2. If the players weren't Detroit's Alternate captain and Pittsburgh's Alternate captain then there would be suspensions.
Here is BSH's recap of the last incident--- Voracek getting crushed by Niklas Kronwall:
How this hit isn't suspension worthy is mind blowing. The purpose of these new rules is to minimize concussions, right? Minimise targeting the head, right? The head is 100% the focus of this hit, no other way about it.
This is Shannahan's video recap of Jody Shelley's five game suspension this pre-season.
"Shelley has time to avoid the hit completely or minimize the contact"
With regards to the above quote, why does that not apply to Kronwall? Voracek comes to the boards with speed, looks back, plays the puck with one hand in front of him and before he gets the puck to the front of his body, BOOM. Shoulder to face. To where? His face. 100%, no denying that. Jake looks down to find the puck right about at the top of the circle. Kronwall's at the point roughly 30 feet away. He had plenty of time to make a simple and effective poke check to play the puck back into the Flyers zone, and could have probably done it easily considering Jake didn't have control of the puck yet. He could have easily neutralized Jake with a hip check. He also could have gotten low and delivered a punishing body check planting his shoulder right on Jake's logo, but no. He put 200 lbs of force behind his hit into Jake's head. My point is Nicklas had tons of time to "minimize the contact" but he did not. He actually did the opposite and loaded up 100% of his weigh into the head of Jake---effectively MAXIMIZING the contact.
In conclusion, the NHL needs to do a better job of educating fans and players alike on what is legal and what is not. I've been around BSH and the SB nation community long enough to know that (or to think I knew that) when the primary point of contact is the head, then the play is worthy of a suspension. However, at this point, as a Flyer fan and watching the three above incidents I've realized that the "primary point of the contact" is no longer the most important factor in deciding discipline in the NHL. The real deciding factors go as followed: 1. Who made the hit. If it's a "good guy" aka. Jordan Staal, Marc-Edward Vlassic, Kronwall has become the main factor. If any of the three hits are made by Jody Shelley or Zac Rinaldo---there is MINIMUM of a two game suspension. 2. Did the player get hurt? In the Shelley video, Shannahan clearly says that "I've also taken into consideration that Boyce was injured on the play." Coby, Danny and Jake were all not seriously injured. If they got hurt, the discipline would change. The NHL needs to consider the event more than who's involved and the after effects because right now, no Flyers fans OR Flyers themselves can honestly say they understand the rules.
PS: The instigator rule just fucking has to go. It is horrible. If you want to eliminate concussions and dirty hits you MUST make people be held accountable for their actions. Being able to pick and choose your spots for brain-damaging body checks and not having to answer for them is wrong. One reason I love hockey compared to football or basketball is the accountability. I've always wondered how reluctant safeties in football would be to crush a WR if they had to fight a 6-5 275 LB tight end if the delivered hit was illegal. I'm 100% okay with good shoulder to chest hits---I love them. But if the NHL wants to get serious with this whole hitting the head shit, get the instigator out of the game. When guys like Brian Burke are releasing their heavyweights because they really do serve no purpose anymore and these little rats get to go around doing anything they please and not having to stand up for themselves---it just blows my mind how the NHL administration doesn't see the connection with accountability and concussions.