October 03, 2011
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Executive VP of Player Safety and Infomercials, has been praised throughout the hockey community for doing two crucial tasks for the gig: Succinctly communicating why an illegal act was deemed suitable for supplemental discipline and setting parameters for how these acts will be punished this season.
Essential to that second task: Giving players a sense of what is still allowed under the revamped Rule 48, which outlaws nearly every type of contact with an opponents' head with a check. Operative phrase: nearly every type of contact.
According to multiple reports, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone(notes) will not received anything more for this hit to the head of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Campoli(notes) on Saturday night that earned Malone a match penalty:
Said Campoli today on the Malone hit, via Louie Jean: "I'm surprised there's no suspension. To me it was a hit to the head."
UPDATE: Shanahan released a statement on the lack of suspension for Malone.
"We felt that this hit was the most challenging one so far in this preseason for the Department of Player Safety to evaluate," said Shanahan. "In the end, we felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright. However, when the contact was made, Campoli's head position significantly changed just prior to the hit.
"There are elements about the hit that we don't like — specifically, the principal point of contact being the head and that it was not a full-body check. But the overriding factor in our judgment was that Campoli's loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it just prior contributed significantly, if not entirely, to those elements."
Do you agree or disagree with this decision not to hand out a Shanaban to Malone?
In watching this hit a dozen times, there's no question Campoli is leaning when Malone nails him. The only questions are (a) if that's enough to make him culpable for taking a shot to the noggin under the "the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit" provision within the rule; (b) if Malone was targeting the head; and (c) if Malone or Campoli, ultimately, are responsible for the hit to the head?
It's a hit that was borderline to begin with, and wouldn't have been a penalty last season. This season, it's a penalty ... but nothing more, apparently.
(For those asking about whether we're getting Shanny TV explanations about plays that didn't earn supplemental discipline, they should be coming in a clip-package much like the one before the season that was shown to the players.)
"I'm hoping that things are going to sort themselves out and this is still going to be a good physical game that we are allowed to play ... every time there is a hit there are going to be parts of the body that are going to go one way or the other. Is every hit right now a penalty? I think everyone is trying to sort that out.
"I saw the hit in the Montreal game there, [Ryan] Malone on [Chris] Campoli. He was trying to finish his check, the guy has got his head down. Are we trying to take that out of the game? I don't know."
John Fontana of Raw Charge, a Lightning blog, thought Malone was a goner:
Ryan Malone will be sitting to start the NHL season. How many games is anyone's guess until Shanahan hands down his decree. Chris Campoli was reminded that you're supposed to keep your head up. But a headshot is a headshot and there can be no tolerance on hits like this.
Meanwhile George Prax of The Checking Line offered this post-announcement assessment of the play:
The apparent argument for the lack of a suspension seems to be that Campoli leaned forward at the last minute. But I don't buy that. Campoli was being hassled from behind by another Bolts player for the puck, and lost it milliseconds before Malone made contact. The only thing for him to do was lean forward, so that the approaching Malone -- or someone else -- wouldn't take the puck away from him, leading to a turnover and likely a scoring chance for the Lightning.
And if that argument isn't enough, just look at the extenuating circumstances of the play. It was 4-1, with the game easily in the hands of the Canadiens. The incident came off a faceoff in the Canadiens zone, where Campoli was completely harmless against the Lightning, and his attention was turned away from Malone, who came charging from the high slot, thanks to the player trying to hook him for the puck from behind.
If nothing else, this decision by Shanahan is a reminder that there are extenuating circumstances for every supplemental discipline analysis. Does Malone get a pass because Campoli put himself in harm's way, or was put there by another player's harassment? Does he earn the benefit of the doubt because he's got a clean record?
It's also a reminder that, under the new rules, the player being hit shares the responsibility in some cases, and this appears to be one such case.
Is this a statement to the NHL's suspension culture that not every match penalty is going to result in a swing from the Shanahammer?
Is this the first time Shanahan's previous relationships -- say, with a Mr. Steven Yzerman -- are being scrutinized by his critics?
Can't wait for the next competition committee meeting when Campoli has a chance to discuss hits like this within the context of player safety ...