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Suspending to the injury in the NHL: What’s your take on discipline in Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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On ye olde Marek Vs. Wyshynski podcast Monday (listen here), we discussed the NHL's Department of Player Safety, Brendan Shanahan and the multitude of controversial acts in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But more to the point, we dissected what, exactly, Shanahan should be punishing in the postseason.

In the case of Shea Weber, he ducked a suspension (like Henrik Zetterberg ducks a punch to the back of the head) because there was no injury resulting from his actions. Matt Carkner's suspension was limited to one game because Brian Boyle wasn't injured. Other infractions haven't even gotten hearings because there were no injuries on the plays.

Meanwhile, Carl Hagelin was given three games because Daniel Alfredsson was assessed as having a concussion.

Our question of the day: How much weight should be given to injuries in the supplemental discipline process, especially here in the postseason?

Your answers were insightful, emotional and compelling; we've collected many of them in this de facto roundtable post. Enjoy.

Karen McC:

Suspending to injury is easily the worst trend we've seen in supplemental discipline.

1. Certain injuries, concussions for example, are not always immediately apparent.  Especially if a player is hiding symptoms to stay in a line up.

2. Concussions very from person to person.  Some players are more prone to them than others.

3. It incentives flat out diving (see Kesler, Ryan) or staying down longer than necessary to get the 5 and a game.  If Zetterberg had laid on the ice Weber would have gotten 5 not 2.  If Holland wasn't a stand up GM he could have told Shanny that he wasn't sure if Z was ok and Weber would have been suspended.

4. The incentives for diving/faking mean that there will *always* be accusations that players and organizations are faking or exaggerating injuries to get calls and punitive supplemental discipline rulings.  As someone with a debilitating chronic illness who's dealt with 'you don't look sick' judgments from the ignorant I hate when people make those accusations.  The system encourages it though.

5. Intent, while sometimes very difficult to judge, is sometimes *very* apparent and should be treated harshly even in the intended violence didn't cause lasting damage.

Dave DelSonno from Westchester, N.Y.:

Let me say that I think for the most part Shanahan has gotten it right all year long. Of course there have been a couple of missteps but as is the case with a new guy in a new role. He is soon much better than soupy...

However, the premise of issuing a suspension based on injury is beyond ludicrous. All one must do is to apply this logic to societal situations in order to see how obscenely ridiculous his train of thought is. Based on how Shanny issues suspensions I could go out and shoot AT people all I want as long as I didn't SHOOT people. Carkner the repeat offender gets one game just because Boyle wouldn't be denied. But because Alfie (not known for toughness) decides to call it quits, Hags (a clean player who idolizes Alfie) is out for 3?

It's flawed logic and Ranger fans have a right to be outraged.

Luke Tully:

I love the suspension based on injury, especially for headshots. Should be suspended for the length of time the player injured is out plus additional time. Look at the Canucks, Daniel Sedin is done for at least this series while Duncan Keith remains in the lineup for the Hawks. Eye for an eye.

Shaela Moen:

Suspending to the injury addresses 50% of the issue.  A reckless, potentially dangerous action is no less reckless or potentially dangerous if the recipient is unhurt.  If the goal is to make players more aware and respectful of each other on the ice, thus creating a safer culture all around, nothing is accomplished when injury-free infractions are brushed aside.

What's more, failing to address the action leaves room for acceptance, which pushes the envelope and moves the line on future actions.

Also, specific injuries, like concussions, can take a few days to fully manifest.  So what does it say when a dirty hit goes unpunished and the recipient then goes down for months nursing its side effects?

Jacob Lanng:

I feel that the current "suspend to the injury" theory toes a dangerous line. It leads to players taking a gamble that the guy might not get injured. Punishing hard on plays where the player is fine would cause some serious unrest though.

Justin F.:

It's a flawed theory. The intent or action (as well as location/timing) of a specific illegal hit or cheap shot should be more important and can be worse than the actual injury that took place. It's almost like saying well, a guy tried to shoot a gun at me, but since he didn't actually hit me, I guess he should only get a slap on the wrist (i.e - $2,500 fine) because he never actually injured me.

If league wants to lessen the chance of serious injuries happening they need to suspend for the actions (illegal/cheap shots) that other players think they can get away with not only for actions that do cause serious injuries.

"Oaken Work":

Intent has to be considered more seriously if the goal is to deter the violent behavior. Punishment based on resulting injury only doesn't work to deter the behavior because often injury is avoided by chance. Players haven't stopped punching guys in the back of the head since the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, because usually a gloved punch in the helmet carries a 2 minute minor at most and no one is hurt.

Conrado Paderes:

The suspension along with injury is absolutely ridiculous. Just because someone is able to get up from some sort of hit that had intention to injure doesn't mean that they should be able to get away scot free.

Could you imagine if Moore got up from Bertuzzi's hit they would not suspend Bertuzzi? The important thing that always has to be taken into account is the intent to injure and not just if the hitee has been injured.

Peter Plevritis:

I feel like every time someone gets suspended or does not get suspended, everyone always talks about how injury should not be a determining factor in the length of a suspension. Yet here we are, in April, still all talking about Shanahan and the NHL's wacky system of justice where injury, especially to the head, trumps all logic and intent.

So I propose we all just stop calling Shanahan's bogus office the "Department of Player Safety" and start calling it what it really is: "Department of Limiting Future Liability."

Finally, Michael Perino:

Suspending to the injury is fundamentally flawed, and I'll explain why.

I have no problem suspending up against players who have reckless, but not premeditated, hits that result in injury - if someone commits vehicular manslaughter, even though its not intentional, he is going to serve time.

What I do have a problem with is this notion that simply because the player was uninjured, we won't suspend based SOLELY on intent.  If you want to "clean up the game"  -- which, I actually thought was the stated purpose of Brendan Shanahan -- what you need to do is remove people who are actively playing dirty.

In no universe is what Shea Weber did in Game 1 not dirty, nor is there a universe in which James Neal's actions yesterday are not considered dirty, and the same goes for Carkner - who even stated "I expected him to fight back and he didn't" acknowledging that he was relentlessly pummeling a player.  I think you'd find a much cloudier opinion on the Hagelin hit in terms of intent.

When people try to commit murder - but fail - they still get charged with attempted murder and conspiracy - and believe it or not, those are more egregious crimes.

If James Neal (who basically tried to cause concussions to not one, but separate players, who already have a history of concussions/head injuries this season within a span of 90 seconds) and Aaron Asham (who nearly crushed a trachea) are not suspended for at least three games (equivalent to Hagelin's "whoops" hit), then it's a farce.

I think that teams should start pulling a Stephen Colbert Super PAC here and tell their players to pretend like they are hurt to up the suspensions on other players, and then have said player "miraculously" recover in time for the next game (which is apparently what may happen with Alfredsson tonight).  The only way to enact change is to point out the sheer absurdity of the league's current criteria - and make no doubts about it, it is absurd.

We appreciate the thoughtful feedback from you folks. In the future, we'll try to present more email collections like this. As always, hit us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

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