Bettman upholds 15-game suspension for Thornton


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension given to Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for what NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan originally deemed an “act of retribution” on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Click here for a PDF of Bettman’s ruling, in which the commissioner disagrees with the NHLPA’s contention that Thornton should have been suspended in the range of 10 to 12 games.

Wrote Bettman in his decision: “While I am prepared to accept Mr. Thornton’s testimony that at the time the whistle blew he had no specific intention of targeting Mr. Orpik (and may not have even realized he was on the ice), I believe it is very apparent from the video that given the scrum and his recognition of Mr. Orpik’s presence on the ice, Mr. Thornton recognized an opportunity to exact the retribution that was denied him when Mr. Orpik earlier had declined his invitation to fight. He casually skated up behind Mr. Orpik and took him down under circumstances in which the latter ‘never had a chance’ to defend himself. Interestingly (and disturbingly), Mr. Thornton testified at the hearing that he knew exactly what he was doing and that he was in complete control of his emotions.”

Bettman concluded, “In these circumstances, I have no trouble concluding that a very lengthy suspension is warranted and that the decision to impose a fifteen (15) game suspension is supported by clear and convincing evidence. In fact, in light of all the circumstances relating to the underlying conduct, it is certainly possible to argue for a more severe punishment, but I am comfortable relying on Mr. Shanahan’s judgment.”

Now that Bettman has upheld the suspension, Thornton has a week to decide if he wants to appeal to a neutral discipline arbitrator, whose decision would “be final and binding in all respects and not subject to review,” per the CBA.


The Bruins released the following statement on Bettman’s ruling:

“We respect the process including the ability to attend the hearing with Commissioner Bettman in support of Shawn. At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him.”

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