Brendan Shanahan has become the most controversial figure of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, to the point where some pundits and fans have accused the Department of Player Safety of everything from playing favorites to being the catalyst for chaotic displays like the one in Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Shanahan's taken heat for not suspending Shea Weber after the Nashville Predators defenseman bashed the head of Henrik Zetterberg into the glass in Game 1; for only giving Ottawa Senators ruffian Matt Carkner a 1-game suspension for attacking Brian Boyle; and, giving Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers three games for his elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson, who now has a concussion.
It only gets rougher: Andrew Shaw has a hearing regarding his collision with Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith on Monday; Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reports that James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins will have two separate hearings for running Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux at the end of Game 3; and, Arron Asham will have an in-person hearing for cross-checking Brayden Schenn to the neck — expect a massive ban on that one.
That's where Shanahan's going; but what about the decisions he's made?
The NHL player safety czar joined the "Boomer and Carton" show on WFAN in New York this morning and revealed several things, including:
• He considered giving Shea Weber a 1-game suspension, but Zetterberg's lack of injury kept it at a fine.
• Carkner asked Boyle to fight off the faceoff, and that the location of many of the punches when Boyle was on the ice (i.e. not the head) contributed to the NHL's decision.
• Hagelin was given one more game that Byron Bitz's suspension because an elbow to the head is more egregious than a shoulder.
• Daniel Alfredsson suffered a concussion, according to Shanahan; the Senators reported on Monday that he passes a baseline test.
Choice cuts from the interview coming up; hear the whole thing here.
On the Shea Weber fine, rather than a suspension:
"I looked at that one, and I'm not happy with that play. I'll say on the bigger picture too: If I made a decision that people didn't agree with, or a day or two later, you got that one wrong, a week later they'd try to hold me to that standard and question by consistency if I move forward.
"The playoffs evolve. The game evolves. I have to try and keep evolving with them. It's not like the regular season where every team has 82 games to play, and there's equal footing. They change depending on the score of the series or how many games are left in the series.
"I investigated that hit. I called Detroit that night. I think that he pushed his face in the glass. I was very close to a 1-game suspension on that. When I talked to Detroit [GM Ken Holland], he basically said that the player was fine.
"I think it's a fair argument. A $2,500 fine is as high as we can fine a player."
On Carkner getting one game, and Hagelin getting three:
"I think they're different plays. The difference between the two, right off the hop, is that there's a head injury and concussion on one and there's no injury on the other. Now, that doesn't mean one guy gets off and the other guy doesn't.
"But when we looked at the play between Carkner and Boyle, Carkner asks Boyle to fight in response to going after their small star player in the game before. [Ed. Note: Shanahan said Carkner asked Boyle to fight off the faceoff.] Boyle doesn't fight back, which I don't blame him — I probably wouldn't have either. He does hit 'em in the face, he drops 'em. As was said to us in the hearing, he hit him with five more punches, and they were in the arm, shoulder and back — not in the head. But he thought that was excessive.
"So Boyle stands up, is fine, doesn't miss a shift. Whereas unfortunately with an elbow to the head … I do think Carl Hagelin's a good kid, but he looks right at Daniel Alfredsson, skates at him and elbows him right in the head. Alfredsson has to leave a big game, an important game and doesn't come back."
Could Alfredsson come back to play in the series?
"I think that's a possibility," said Shanahan. "Usually when I deal with a report from the team doctor, most of these guys say — and what Ottawa said to me — is that it could be one day or it could be one year. You just don't know [about concussions].
"I think it's very clear, at the very least, that he's not faking, or else he would have come back and played on that [5 minute] power play they were given. Whether he's back tonight or back later in the week, we just don't know. I made the call based on [the fact] that there was an injury."
"It's not all based on the injury, but the injury is a contributing factor," said Shanahan. "I'm not hoping that Alfredsson is out for the rest the series. I'm hoping he's back next game."
Shanahan later said the Senators indicated Alfredsson "could return" in the series and "I did not make this decision based on [the notion] that Alfredsson is done for the series." Which it appears he will.
On suspending to the injury:
"We really compared the Hagelin play to the suspension two days ago to Byron Bitz for the hit on Kyle Clifford, which was for a shoulder to the head. We felt that an elbow to the head was more deliberate, it caused an injury, and that's why we went from two games to three."
Shanahan later said: "It's a contributing factor. It's not the whole factor," and that it's been negotiated into the CBA well before he took the job that injuries would play a role.
FYI: Chris Phillips didn't throw an elbow at Ryan Callahan's head, in the estimation of the Department of Player Safety. "It's not remotely the same degree [as the Hagelin hit]."