Tag: league discipline

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One

Shanahan explains how he’ll approach his new role as league disciplinarian

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There are plenty of things to look forward to next season. Will the Bruins be able to repeat? Will the Canucks be able to take the next step? Will all of the Panthers’ changes make a difference in the standings? The list goes on and on. But one of the most interesting changes has nothing to do with an individual team. How will Brendan Shanahan do as the NHL’s new head disciplinarian? It’s an important question that will shape the game as much as any individual play, player, or team on the ice next season.

Since the moment it was announced he’d be taking over for Colin Campbell, Shanahan has explained the importance of communication at all levels. Not only is it important to make the right decisions for each possible suspension, but it’s important that everyone knows what goes into each decision.

From his introductory press conference:

“I think communicating with the players, I think communicating with my peers at the NHL, and I think communicating with the NHLPA and some of my friends there. I think it’s just a matter of really building a consensus, moving towards next season, using the next few months to sort of prepare myself for when the season starts.

But I absolutely think that in this day and age constant communication is important. I remember as a player you really don’t think about supplemental discipline until it’s happening to you.”

Part of the communication process will be the transparency of the suspension process. Time and time again, fans and media members alike have been dumbfounded with the league’s decision making process revolving around controversial plays. Part of Shanahan’s plan is to make sure everyone knows the thought process that goes into each and every hearing—whether a suspension is warranted or not. Recently he told Nicholas Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports his plans for the upcoming season:

“You might not agree with our decision, but you’re going to understand how we got to that decision. This is not a black-and-white job. It’s not completely predictive. But over a certain amount of time, I hope that they sort of start to understand what the strike zone is.”

Hopefully people will start to understand the guidelines by the end of the season. If Shanahan plainly explains what constitutes a hit, what doesn’t, and why they made each decision, the players will be able to adjust their games accordingly. Unfortunately, just because the league office aims to be more consistent and transparent, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will immediately trickle down to the players. Suspensions will be important to send messages, but not everyone will receive the message until it happens to them.

Again Shanahan talks to Cotsonika on Yahoo! Sports:

“I’m still a big believer that one- and two- and three-game suspensions for certain infractions to certain players are really effective teaching moments. Maybe a hockey play goes bad, or there’s a play on the edge and something happens. A two- or three-game suspension has a devastating effect on them, and they change their behavior.

“There are other players that sort of seem to keep reappearing, and the communication I’ve had from players and the union—for the sake of the game and the safety of the game—those are the guys that might be dealt with a little bit harsher.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens the first time someone delivers a questionable hit next season. Instead of spinning the “Wheel of Justice,” next year, we should get a glimpse behind the curtain for the first time ever. We’ve always been left with questions like, “What were they thinking with that suspension?” Now, we’ll replace those questions with, “I can’t believe that is why they gave him a suspension!”

Hopefully down the road, those statements will finally be replaced with, “Yep, that decision makes total sense.” Hey, we can dream, right?

Colin Campbell to step down as league disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan to replace him

Brendan Shanahan

The days of feeling as if the NHL is being run as if a shadow government with conflicts of interest existing in a hush-hush manner are coming to an end.

Colin Campbell, the Senior VP of Hockey Operations for the NHL, will be stepping down from his position as the league disciplinarian at the end of the season. Gone will be the talk of conflicts of interest and perhaps gone with him will be the cloud of mystery that surrounds any and all decisions on punishment (or non-punishment) of players and the “Wheel Of Justice” means that decisions are handed out.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Campbell won’t be stepping down from his VP position, he’ll just be relinquishing his duties as the judge, jury, and executioner of player discipline issues. While that job unto itself is a thankless one with GMs and players around the league constantly in your ear, emails revealed that Campbell was taking advantage of his position in the league to potentially influence calls in favor of his son Gregory, currently with the Boston Bruins. Campbell also lashed out against referees for not calling out dives. Marc Savard caught Campbell’s ire in one email in particular calling him “the biggest faker going.”

Perhaps the breaking point for Campbell came thanks to a radio appearance in April when he was questioned by TSN Radio’s James Cybulski about his decision to not suspend Raffi Torres for his hit on Brent Seabrook during the Canucks first round series against Chicago. Campbell went on a tirade against Cybulski and was angered at having his take on the play and the situation questioned. Campbell sounded like a guy who was at his wits end after a year of having his abilities questioned and the very apparent conflict of interest consistently being discussed. That conflict of interest even spurred a column before the start of the Stanley Cup finals posing some nonsensical conspiracy theories from one Vancouver columnist who once again called Campbell’s conflict of interest into question.

NHL VP of hockey and business operations Brendan Shanahan will take over the position as the league’s disciplinarian. Shanahan is a former all star player over 21 seasons with five different teams (New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, New York Rangers). Over that time, he knows a thing or two about tough play amassing 2,489 penalty minutes as well as 656 goals and 1,354 points in what will someday be a Hall Of Fame career.

Shanahan is a smart guy and an innovative one on top of all that. What he’ll need to do is to help remove the smoky room aspect to this job and make it far more transparent and consistent. That won’t be easy with 30 GMs always wanting punishment to be tougher on other teams and easier on their own. Shanahan will have to realize that the “old boys” network that seemed to exist under Campbell won’t work anymore and that making sure to punish heinous acts on the ice get to be more understandable to the players and to the public. Getting a guy that’s not far removed from the game (Shanahan retired in 2009) helps that out because he’s got a better understanding of what’s going on out on the ice and has a better idea of the evil that lies in the hearts of some players.

Here’s to hoping this leads to a far more understanding era of punishment in the league.

Daniel Briere to talk with NHL over cross checking incident with Frans Nielsen

Daniel Briere

Last night’s Flyers-Islanders game in Philadelphia was especially festive with a host of game misconducts being handed out as well as fists thrown between Dan Carcillo and Zenon Konopka. With about a minute left to play in the game, however, things really boiled over between Islanders forward Frans Nielsen and Flyers forward Daniel Briere.

As the two set up for a face off in the Islanders zone, Nielsen had a few words to share with Briere. Once the puck was dropped, however, things got ugly fast as Briere cross checked Nielsen up high near his head. Dan Carcillo jumped in in case things turned into a fight, however Nielsen dropped to the ice. Isles goalie Rick DiPietro tried to intercept Briere but was quickly corralled by Chris Pronger. If my words weren’t thrilling enough for you, you can see video of everything that went down on YouTube here.

Word has come down thanks to TSN’s Darren Dreger that Briere will have a 10 am conference call with the league office on Monday to discuss what happened. The Philadelphia Flyers have confirmed the call will go down and you can expect that Briere will see some brand of punishment by the NHL for attempting to take Nielsen’s head off.