For once, the Shanaban did not come out for a blow to the head during a game.
Ryan Malone’s collision with Chris Campoli on Saturday night that put Campoli down on the ice for a spell drew the ire of Montreal fans eager to see NHL player safety master and disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan to drop the hammer on Malone for the hit.
Instead, Malone will not be suspended for the hit and much like what we had to say about it the other night, the line drawn between what’s legal and isn’t legal was the issue here. Shanahan’s explanation why he didn’t suspend Malone tries to clarify a muddled situation.
The difficulty was squarely in the fact Malone hit Campoli in the head. But Shanahan’s evaluation is after Campoli lost the puck on the play, the Canadiens defenseman lunged in a way that the head became the check’s principal point of contact.
“We felt that this hit was the most challenging one so far in this preseason for the Department of Player Safety to evaluate,” said Shanahan. “In the end, we felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright. However, when the contact was made, Campoli’s head position significantly changed just prior to the hit.
“There are elements about the hit that we don’t like – specifically, the principal point of contact being the head and that it was not a full-body check. But the overriding factor in our judgment was that Campoli’s loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it just prior contributed significantly, if not entirely, to those elements.”
Shanahan’s explanation is crystal clear here on a play that wasn’t very clear at all. It also demonstrates how the responsibility of getting hit isn’t always on the hitter, sometimes the guy getting hit can’t put himself at risk. Shanahan makes it clear that he doesn’t like a lot about the hit, but ultimately it comes down to be an unfortunate collision thanks to both players doing something that made it a lot riskier.
It’s good for Shanahan to get out front on situations like this where it’s certainly a head shot, but one that falls out of bounds with Rule 48 and other things they’re trying to eliminate from the game. In the past under Colin Campbell about the only explanation we’d have gotten on a play like this is that it was a “hockey play” and that was that. Shanahan elaborating on the hit and the play itself and why he’s not punishing Malone is, again, a huge breath of fresh air for the league.
Update: Here’s Shanahan in video form explaining the play.