The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith for 5 games on Friday for his elbow to the head of Vancouver Canucks star Daniel Sedin on Wednesday night.
As we mentioned previously, it was a decision rife with political and circumstantial challenges; here's how Brendan Shanahan arrived at the decision:
From the NHL:
NEW YORK (March 23, 2012) -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has been suspended, without pay, for five games for elbowing Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin during NHL Game #1100 at Chicago on Wednesday, March 21, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Keith will forfeit $149,688.15. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. The incident occurred at 13:36 of the first period. Keith was assessed a minor penalty for elbowing on the play.
Is five games enough, too much or too little for Keith?
A few points of intrigue from the video:
• This hit from Daniel Sedin on Keith, occurring around five minutes before the elbow, is referenced, but never shown:
This hit has been seen as a catalyst for Keith's elbow; if nothing else, it would seem to signal a level of premeditation on Keith's part, underscored by Henrik Sedin's claim that Keith voiced an intention to get Daniel later in the game.
"Regardless of Keith's assertion that the intent on this play was to impede Sedin's progress, as opposed to a retaliation for an earlier hit, Keith's hit was still dangerous, reckless and caused injury."
So intent — seen as a major factor in this decision — was either minimized in the process or simply downplayed in the video because of the he said/he said nature of it. Where was "predatory?"
They should have shown the hit. It's a dirty play by Sedin, and leaving it out is going to be seen as selective editing by Chicago fans.
• This is the seventh Shanaban of exactly five games, and the third to involve an elbowing infraction — the others were Andy Sutton on Gabe Landeskog and Rene Bourque on Nicklas Backstrom. That latter suspension would seem to be the comparable play — Bourque also argued there was no intent on his part to injure.
• Finally, are five games enough?
Given the context — no buying there wasn't intent here — and Keith's clean record, it's a safe play for Shanahan, splitting the difference from those asking for a 7-game ban and those that see this more in line with the recent suspension of Shane Doan (3 games).
Politically? Well, the chance for the NHL to say Keith was "suspended for the remainder of the regular season" was an option. Especially with the playoffs looming, it could have been a scarecrow on the road to the postseason. (You're going to find some Blackhawks fans that are at least a little thankful that Keith is getting some rest before the tournament.)
That the NHL didn't make the statement with this suspension is admirable, as I'm sure the desire to play politics was alluring.