Tag: Wheel of Justice

Brendan Shanahan

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


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.

Nothing makes sense: Chris Kunitz and Steve Downie each receive one-game suspensions

Steve Downie

Yesterday we saw Vancouver’s Raffi Torres get away without punishment for a vicious shot to the head of Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook. While that hit was excused on an odd technicality of sorts with Colin Campbell saying that they “never intended to eliminate that kind of hit” from the game. The sort of hit where players are speeding around behind the net and thigns can just happen.

Fast forward to this afternoon where both Lightning forward Steve Downie and Penguins forward Chris Kunitz each had a hearing with the NHL regarding dubious hits from last night’s Game 3 that saw the Penguins come out on top 3-2. Kunitz connected with Simon Gagne on a dirty roaring elbow to the back of Gagne’s head reminiscent of things we’ve seen from one particular teammate of Kunitz’s. Downie delivered a huge hit to Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy that saw Downie leave his feet to launch himself at Lovejoy. Downie knocked down Lovejoy but didn’t connect with his head and wasn’t a blindside hit. Making that all the more fun is that the hit occurred behind the net as well much like Torres’ hit only Lovejoy knew Downie was coming.

With those facts in place, of course the league opted to go against the grain and suspend both Downie and Kunitz for one game each. So let’s check back over the playoff punishment list:

  • Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan: Two games for stomping the foot of an opponent
  • Los Angeles’ Jarret Stoll: One game for hitting Ian White in the head from behind
  • Vancouver’s Raffi Torres: Zero games for delivering a blindside shot to the head while behind the net
  • Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie: One game for charging
  • Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz: One game for an intentional elbow to an unsuspecting opponent

Confused? So are we.

Campbell’s statements on the hits are to the point. On Downie’s hit he says, “Downie left his feet and launched himself at the head of his opponent and he came from a considerable distance, with speed and force, to deliver the check.”

That’s a bit of an assumption to say that Downie was targeting Lovejoy’s head, but there’s no doubt about him leaving his feet. As for Kunitz, he was a bit more direct saying, “Kunitz delivered an elbow directly to the head of his opponent.”

For all the bluster and yelling and pontificating the league does about wanting to clean up the game and make sure players are saved from having their heads (or feet) taken off by an opponent with ill intent the NHL sure is doing a poor job of being consistent about any part of it. While the inconsistency is a source of jokes and snarky commentary (with good reason) the players and Colin Campbell as well as those above Campbell at the NHL home office have to realize that there’s nothing about any of this that makes any sense. Calling it the “Wheel of Justice” isn’t just for jokes anymore as it seems this is just how it’s handled.

Torres’ shot to Seabrook has Seabrook out of tonight’s Game 4 in Chicago. Gagne is fortunate to not have suffered an injury thanks to Kunitz’s elbow but there’s zero way you can argue the intent behind his hit. Downie is a guy with a checkered past and a history of leaving his feet to deliver huge (and illegal) hits. He was once given a 20-game suspension back in 2007 with the Flyers for leaving his feet to hit Dean McAmmond. Any player with that sort of past should be scrutinized further, but given what we’ve seen out of Torres, Kunitz, and Ryan Downie’s hit seems like child’s play. Yet here we are with Downie being sat down by the league for a game while Torres will be back on the ice tonight in a game that could turn ugly because of his presence.

This just brings about the question of where exactly the line is for these players? Is having a permanently blurred line so a player isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be punished or not for a potentially dangerous hit is the goal, then mission accomplished. If having any kind of accountability for what happens was the aim then they’re failing miserably. It’s hard to believe that teams and players find this sort of Russian Roulette brand of handling punishment is in their favor but something’s got to give here.

We’re not asking for a great overhaul of how to do things we’re just asking for common sense. Hard to believe that asking for that would be the most difficult request out of everything.

Jody Shelley to meet with NHL over hit from behind on Boston’s Adam McQuaid

Anaheim Ducks v Philadelphia Flyers

While the Wheel of Justice didn’t spin for Alexander Semin today, Jody Shelley of the Flyers may not get off so lucky.

Yesterday, Shelley received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind when he shoved Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid from behind on an icing play. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets that Shelley will have a disciplinary meeting with the NHL tomorrow about the hit. Expect a suspension of some sort to come out of this.

The league has cracked down on hits where icing was to be called in order to save players from injury. In this case, Shelley shoved McQuaid as he was reaching for the puck and with his balance thrown off like that sent him head and shoulder first into the end boards. You can see video of the hit here on YouTube.

Matt Kalman of The Bruins Blog points out that precedent and history is not on Shelley’s side in this situation pointing out that last season we saw Alexander Ovechkin was suspended for a similar hit on Brian Campbell as was Darcy Tucker for hitting Matt Greene. Tucker got one game for his hit and Ovechkin got two. Expect Shelley to see something similar, but with that fickle Wheel of Justice you just never know.