Shanahan’s first playoff disciplinary hearing will be with Byron Bitz


The NHL’s rookie discipline czar has scheduled his first disciplinary hearing of the playoffs.

On Thursday, Brendan Shanahan will speak with Vancouver Canucks forward Byron Bitz regarding the hit Bitz laid on Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford during the Kings’ 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinal:

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Bitz was given a five minute boarding major on the play and a game misconduct. Clifford left the contest and didn’t return, and the Kings later announced he’d suffered an upper body injury. (Early speculation was a possible concussion — Clifford looked woozy trying to leave the ice.)

It’ll be interesting to see how Shanahan handles what could be his first postseason suspension.

Last year, there were three suspensions issued in the opening round of the playoffs — Jarret Stoll got one game for boarding Ian White, Bobby Ryan got two games for stomping Jonathan Blum and Jarkko Ruutu got a game for a late hit on Martin Erat.

Earlier this year, Shanahan had this to say regarding suspensions in the postseason:

“I can attest to this as a player, if you ask me if I’d rather have a four-game suspension in November than a one-game suspension in the playoffs, I’d take the four-game suspension in November,” Shanahan told ESPN’s Craig Custance. “If you think about it, that one game in the finals is the equivalent of a 12-game suspension. … I don’t feel we’re in the punishment business, we’re in the changing player behavior business. You do that by getting a player’s attention.”

Of note, Bitz has never been suspended or fined by the NHL.

You be Shanahan: Which of these hits warrants discipline?


PHT isn’t much for role-playing (these masks are for Halloween-related purposes! I swear!) but today, it feels apropos. There were four contentious hits in the NHL last night and it’s safe to assume the league’s discipline czar will be busy reviewing them today.

So here’s your big chance to be Brendan Shanahan. Iron your shirt, put on a nice sports coat and judge these hits.

Hit No. 1: Deryk Engelland on Marcus Kruger

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Relevant factoids: No penalty on the play for Engelland (unless you count getting whaled on by John Scott a penalty). Kruger played the remainder of the first period before being pulled from the game. Kruger now out with a concussion.

Hit No. 2: Alex Semin on Jordin Tootoo

Relevant factoids: Semin got two minutes for boarding. Tootoo appeared no worse for wear and finished with 14:49 of ice time.

PHT opining: Can’t help but think if it was Tootoo that boarded Semin, he’d have the book thrown at him.

Hit No. 3: Paul Gaustad on Jesse Winchester

Relevant factoids: No penalty for Gaustad on the play. Winchester left the game and didn’t return; he’s now out with a concussion.

Hit No. 4: Evander Kane on Al Montoya

Relevant factoids: Kane got two minutes for goaltender interference. Montoya left the game and didn’t return with an apparent upper-body injury. Arthur Staple of Newsday confirmed Montoya was cleared to fly home with the team.

Okay, let’s go. Verdicts in the comments section. Do it. Do it.

Brendan Shanahan’s biggest job this year? Bringing sanity back to NHL punishments


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.