October 18, 2011
Kris Letang's(notes) boarding minor on Alex Burmistrov(notes) of the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night has now been inflated to a 2-game suspension by Brendan Shanahan(notes) and the NHL Department of Player Safety:
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Letang will forfeit $37,837.84. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. At 13:08 of the third period, Letang hit Burmistrov from behind, driving him into the boards. Letang was assessed a minor penalty for boarding.
Letang will miss games tonight at Minnesota and Thursday, Oct. 20, vs. Montreal. He will be eligible to return Saturday, Oct. 22, vs. New Jersey.
This isn't a suspension with which we agree; but even when you aren't in accord with how the Shanahammer swung, these NHL videos at least give you a sense of what the hell the rationale was:
Do you agree or disagree with the suspension and/or the reasoning?
Shanahan's take: When the puck went to the boards and Burmistrov was clearly going to win the race, Letang went into — quoting here — an "athletic defensive position" in order to hit him. There are no sudden movements "prior or simultaneous with the hit."
Watching the replays, it's pretty clear the Letang swung his stick at Burmistrov to try and win the puck battle, and then rode Burmistrov into the boards from behind after that. Shanahan has successfully diagnosed this as a boarding penalty.
But a suspension-level event? C'mon now.
This a boarding call you'll see every night in the National Hockey League. If it's worthy of a suspension, well, then suspend them. But the ultimate goal is to try and get this kind of hit out of the game, not issue suspensions like a meter maid issues parking violations in New York City. So a player, in this case Letang, is made an example of in order to remind his peers not to hit another guy in the numbers and make him eat glass.
Why? Because Shanahan said that Letang was a repeat offender, and thus a suspension can be justified. We can only assume it was for his boarding call against Nate Thompson in the playoffs, because there's no public record of there having been a fine. (Nice work, previous regime.)
This isn't to say Letang was suspended strictly for political reasons. The Dept. of Player Safety clearly feels this was worthy of a Shanaban because this is a repeat offender, and they've been suspending repeat offenders emphatically since the preseason. But the play itself just doesn't seem to warrant it.
Again, disagreement with a suspension is not demonizing Brendan Shanahan's methodology or administration of justice. (We have to state this occasionally on the off-chance Damien Cox is reading it.) We just don't see this one as anything more than a minor.