Brendan Shanahan and the NHL had their opportunity to set the baseline for discipline in the postseason last week when Nashville’s Shea Weber thumped Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards.
The verdict? No suspension and a $2,500 fine.
That decision set the precedent for what we’ve seen in the days since — a multitude of high hits, many behind the play, and many with dangerous consequences.
On Sunday, Shanahan suspended New York Rangers winger Carl Hagelin for three games for an elbow to the head of Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. Meanwhile, Ottawa defenseman Matt Carkner was let off with a one-game ban after delivering a series of sucker punches to the head of a defenseless Brian Boyle.
Clearly, there are numerous factors in play here — from star power of the guilty parties (high for Weber, low for Hagelin and Carkner) and injuries to the victims (Zetterberg was fine, Alfredsson was not). But what’s even more clear is that there isn’t a shred of consistency in the punishments the NHL is doling out in a postseason marked as much by vicious hits as it is by thrilling overtime games.
Here are the penalties Shanahan has issued so far this postseason:
Shea Weber, Nashville — Fined $2,500 for punching Henrik Zetterberg and mashing his face into the glass (Zetterberg did not sustain injuries).
Carl Hagelin, New York — Suspended three games for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head (Alfredsson did not return to the game).
Matt Carkner, Ottawa — Suspended one game for punching Brian Boyle in the head seven times. Boyle did not retaliate and “was an unwilling combatant.” (Boyle did not sustain injuries).
(Shanahan spoke about the decisions on the “Boomer and Carton” show on WFAN in New York on Monday morning. Hear the full interview here.)
After all the game misconducts and scuffles during Sunday’s Flyers-Penguins game, more suspensions and fines are likely on the way.
Carkner’s slap on the wrist may be the most surprising, as Shanahan acknowledged in his ruling that Carkner is a repeat offender. He fractured the orbital bone of an Islanders defender with a similar attack. In their response to the Hagelin suspension, the Rangers said they were “thoroughly perplexed in the ruling’s inconsistency with other supplementary discipline decisions that have been made throughout this season and during the playoffs.”
The Rangers are not the only one’s scratching their heads.
What do you think about Shanahan’s rulings? Did he lose credibility by not suspending Weber? Should injuries and a player’s star status factor into the decision? Are the hits getting out of control or is this just playoff hockey?