When Colin Campbell announced he was stepping down as the NHL’s head disciplinarian it opened the door up to see who was going to fill his shoes. After all, Campbell’s history in meting out punishment had come under fire the last few years and even more so after blogger Tyler Dellow discovered that Campbell appeared to use his influence in the NHL to get officials to make calls that worked to benefit his son Greg Campbell.
With that conflict of interest now a thing of the past, it’s up to Brendan Shanahan to fill in in that role for the NHL and for him, he’s got a lot of work to do to help the NHL improve its image as far as doing right by the players and for the league’s appearances. All you have to do is think of guys like Matt Cooke and Mike Richards not being suspended for ruthless hits on unsuspecting opponents like Marc Savard and David Booth in recent years and the outrage that came from that and other dubious hits.
As The Canadian Press’ Chris Johnston notes from Shanahan, he’s got a plan set to make things better for the NHL, or at the very least, making the process a lot more transparent.
Not only does Shanahan plan to introduce some new elements to the job — he told Yahoo Sports recently that a video will be released following each discipline hearing to explain the decision — it will be done in a different way than his predecessor.
Shanahan will continue to be based out of New York, rather than Toronto, and is expected to dole out harsher penalties. Bettman made it clear that was one of the primary motivations for the change when it was announced in June.
The task of preparing for the job has pretty much been underway ever since.
Doing things differently than how Campbell did them is the first and best thing Shanahan can do to help the league’s image when it comes to disciplining itself. After all, Campbell is the guy who didn’t give out suspensions to Cooke, Richards, or Zdeno Chara for separate terrible and dangerous hits over the last few seasons but did give a six-game suspension to Sean Avery for basically being a jerk with the press. By trying to cover up bad PR and look like a family oriented kind of show by making the league look petty and reckless when it comes to a players health is a trade off that can’t happen anymore.
With the way attention is being paid to different hits and with how players are being handled better and more carefully when it comes to head injuries, letting a guy skate by easy because it was the first time they crossed the line or he says he “didn’t mean to do it” isn’t going to work either. That doesn’t mean going out of the way to punish players for the end result of reckless plays, but it means being more vigilant about gauging a player’s intent and cross-referencing that with their reputation on the ice.
With Shanahan being so recently removed from the league, he’ll have the kind of insight needed to better rule on these things than Campbell did. Not having a kid currently playing in the NHL will certainly help in keeping up with appearances as well. The pressure is on right away for Shanahan, however, and he’s got to make sure right off the bat that he gets things right. Following in Campbell’s footsteps too closely will only make things more frustrating for everyone involved from the team executives to the players all the way on down to the fans.