Shanahan has big decision to make with Keith elbow


Brendan Shanahan and the NHL’s disciplinary decision-makers face a big call whenever they determine a proper punishment for Duncan Keith regarding his elbow on Daniel Sedin.

The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman is a one-time Norris Trophy winner while Daniel came just short of winning a Hart Trophy like his brother Henrik last season. Combine the high-profile status of the two stars, Sedin’s indefinite absence and murmurs of it being a premeditated hit and it only makes sense that Nick Kypreos reports that the meeting might come “much later” than the original afternoon appointment.

The Vancouver Canucks already won a game (2-1 against the Dallas Stars last night) with Daniel Sedin on the sidelines, but the Blackhawks won’t play again until Sunday. Shanahan might want to take advantage of that gap, as The Globe & Mail’s David Ebner points out the high stakes.

The decision on Keith will be one of the bigger calls this season by NHL senior vice-president Brendan Shanahan and the newly created department of player safety. The Keith-Sedin situation involves two of the league’s best players and what appears, at least on tape, to be a fairly deliberate elbow to the head.

The NHL appeared to endorse the staged brawl between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils on Monday, playing highlights prominently on Then came the NFL on Wednesday and its hammer on the New Orleans Saints for three years of bounty hunting. While the situations vary in severity, the NFL was unequivocal in its decision. The NHL’s enforcement, on ice during games, and in head-office reviews, seems to ebb and flow.

In other words, this is a chance for Shanahan to make a statement, although one can bet it won’t be anywhere on the suspending a Super Bowl-winning coach for a full season level.

While we await Shanahan’s tough call, share your thoughts. What kind of punishment does Keith deserve? Will this decision become a “yard stick” for future calls?

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado