Stephane Quintal named new NHL Department of Player Safety boss

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Stephane Quintal named new NHL Department of Player Safety boss
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How you feel about the promotion of Stephane Quintal to senior vice president of player safety in the NHL likely hinges on how you felt about the job Brendan Shanahan did as the department’s founding father.

Quintal's the guy those inside the department were pulling for to get the job. Every indication we’ve received is that Quintal will continue to enforce the standards established by the department under Shanahan, who left the job in April to take over rearranging the deck chairs of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That means Quintal continuing to use the established precedents on factors like intent to injury and hits to the head. That means continuing to use the “as the video shows” explanations of suspensions and maintaining open communication with players and teams. That means moving progressively to tackle new challenges and correct old mistakes, like with the development of “Rule 48.” And, we imagine, that means continuing to target those players that repeatedly end up in hearings with the Department of Player Safety.

The NHL wanted to hire a former player for the job, having seen the gravitas with which Shanahan was able to rule in his decisions. The players, by and large, respected these decisions were coming from an alumnus rather than someone who “never played the game.” Like a blogger or something. 

Also, Quintal had 1,320 PIMs. Always a plus.

The NHL wanted someone in place before the preseason, which is basically Thunderdome for suspendable offenses – marginal NHLers trying to make a mark by leaving them on opposing players.

While Quintal served as interim senior VP after Shanahan left, there were other candidates for the job. The NHL was keen on Brian Leetch, but he never pursued the job. Former Leafs executive Claude Loiselle, who worked with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly for the League about a decade ago, appeared close to getting the job but was eventually out of the mix.

The last two prominent names up for the job were Kris King, a senior director of hockey operations for the NHL; and former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, who was revealed to be in consideration late in the process.  

But it was Quintal, a defenseman in the NHL for 16 years, who got the gig.

“Stephane Quintal has been dedicated to the mission of the Department of Player Safety since its creation for the opening of the 2011-12 season and has demonstrated over the last several months that he is uniquely suited to lead the department going forward,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Brendan Shanahan established and built a highly-functioning and well-run department in his three years at its helm. Among his most important decisions was hiring Stephane Quintal to be part of his supervisory team.

“Tasked with running the department last spring during the most intensely-competitive and closely-scrutinized part of our season – the final regular-season weekend and the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs – Stephane proved that he clearly was up to the challenge. I am confident that he is the right man for the job.”

There’s always an argument to be made for hitting the reset button when it comes to supplemental discipline. The move from Colin Campbell to Brendan Shanahan wiped that slate clean at a time when it was vital. What’ll be interesting is to see is how, or if, Quintal differentiates his department from that of Shanahan’s, given the shared braintrust and Quintal’s own role in the previous regime.

Not that it needs to in any dramatic way. His hiring is an endorsement that the current system works as well as a disciplinary system can in the NHL.

There are always being to be whiffs. There are always going to be moments of abject hypocrisy. But by and large, the Department of Player Safety usually gets it right; and above all else, is able to communicate why it believes it did.

Now, if we can’t have Shanabans anymore, what are we going to call Quintal-led suspensions …