Saturday, April 21, 2012

Player Safety, again?

I've gone on at length about player safety, and I think that I've made my case pretty clear that Brendan Shanahan appears to be the bastard child of Collie Campbell. Suspensions are all over the place. In this post-season alone, we've learned that:
  • Elbowing a star player, and having no suspension history will get you three games off
  • Viciously injuring a relative nobody (and having no suspension history) will get you a two game suspension
  • Viciously attacking a relative nobody, and having a history of doing exactly that, will get you a one game suspension
  • Charging and deliberately targeting opponents in the head twice in one shift will get you a one game suspension.
  • Attempting to decapitate your opponent will get you four games off (the only reason Asham didn't decapitate Schenn is that Schenn's chest pads got in the way).
I will say that at least Shanny got it right with his 25 game suspension of Raffi Torres. Well, kind of. Once again, I think that the player he hit being a star player had an influence on the length of the suspension. Torres has a long history of high hits and elbowing players in the head. He's a dirty player, and I can't help but wonder if he shared a womb with Matt Cooke. He deserves 25 games for his history alone, but I have to ask: If Torres had hit Jeremy Morin and Morin skated away from the hit, would Torres have earned 25 games for a clearly dirty hit? The small black jaded part of my soul seriously doubts it.

I have a better idea. These suspensions have been all over the board. There is no rhyme or reason to them, although Shanahan tries to explain the rationale in these cases. Shanahan has explained that when he gets something to review, he sends it around, and then he discusses it with the committee. The deliberations are not public, and the members are not known (at least at my level of interweb searching). It makes you wonder if pressure is applied from above, in the form of Gary Bettman stepping in and "advising" Shanny as to what to do, and it makes me personally wonder if Shanny is truly acting on his own or simply as Bettman's stooge. (Please, Shanny, don't hurt me.)

I think that the system should be changed. I would like to see a three member panel adjudicate suspensions in the NHL. One member would be assigned by the NHL, one would be assigned by the NHLPA, and the third would be assigned by a judge, preferably one that is known by the NHL, perhaps one who routinely decides arbitration cases. (I'll admit right now that my understanding of such matters is limited.)

This three member panel would then hear cases in a manner similar to court cases:
  • Each team would send a representative to the hearing.
  • The player in question would have the option to be present in person, by phone, or not at all
  • Each team's representative would make his or her case as to whether there is a suspendable action, and the severity of any suspendable action.
  • The panel would hear the arguments, and perhaps from witnesses in helping to make a determination
  • After hearing arguments, the panel would deliberate and render a verdict. The player in question would have to be present, either in person or via teleconference. 
I like a system like this because while at first there may be as much chaos as there is now, after a few cases, the panel would have established a system of precedents that would be the benchmark for future deliberations. It would also allow teams to make their cases. For the Wild, they'd be able to make their case for the Bogosian hit on Bouchard (arguable) or the Tanguay hit on Spurgeon (dirty to anyone outside of Calgary city limits).

My system is not perfect. I'm sure someone who's a lot smarter than me (like, anyone) could punch holes in my plan a mile wide. But I'd take a system like this any day of the week.

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