November 14, 2011
TORONTO -- Brendan Shanahan(notes) called the Buffalo Sabres "completely irresponsible" for suggesting it is "open season on goalies" because of his decision not to suspend the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic(notes), and he issued a warning -- well aware that the Sabres host the Bruins next Wednesday night.
"You run a goalie, you're going to find yourself in the same situation Lucic was today," said Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, as he walked into the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night. "You're going to have to explain yourself, and if you don't explain it sufficiently and if I don't buy it, you're going to be suspended."
Lucic collided with Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller(notes) on Saturday night. He was racing for a puck in hopes of a breakaway. Miller rushed out of the crease and got to the puck first. Lucic ran right into him. While Lucic received a two-minute charging penalty, Miller suffered a concussion.
Before Shanahan reached his decision, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said if Lucic wasn't suspended that meant it was "fair game on goaltenders."
"Their goaltender can play the puck; we can run him over," Ruff told reporters. "We can hurt him, and all you get is a two-minute minor penalty. That's essentially what that means. You can concuss the other team's goaltender. You can run him going at whatever speed he was going. He made no attempt to get out of the way."
No, he didn't. And although Lucic said in a hearing Monday he felt it was too late for him to move, Shanahan said Lucic "should have made more of an effort to get out of the way."
But Shanahan noted that Lucic popped his head up at the red line, when Miller was still in the crease, and Lucic didn't stop skating until he reached the top of the circle.
"There's a very short distance for him to close on Miller at that point, and so I felt up until that moment it's reasonable that he really felt that this was a potential breakaway," Shanahan said.
Shanahan also pointed out that Lucic didn't veer into Miller, didn't raise a forearm or an elbow, and didn't hit him in the head. The hit was shoulder-to-shoulder. Shanahan added that he didn't think there was "any reasonable expectation on that collision that there's necessarily going to be an injury to that degree."
"So I felt at the time that the penalty on the ice was the correct call," Shanahan said. "Potentially, could there have been a five-minute major? Maybe. But I didn't feel that his actions when he realized that this puck wasn't his escalated to the level of supplemental discipline."
Shanahan said he expected Sabres general manager Darcy Regier to lead a "very passionate discussion on goaltenders" at Tuesday's NHL general managers meeting at Toronto airport hotel. It's up to the GMs to decide whether the NHL should treat goaltenders as the NFL does quarterbacks.
"I'm not a policy-maker, but I'm a policy-enforcer," Shanahan said.
"If these guys want that, I'm happy to enforce that policy. But I don't think I can just go and do this because this happened to a great goaltender like Ryan Miller. I judged this case for what this case was."
In the meantime, Shanahan made it clear how he would deal with retaliation.
"If I felt there was intent on Lucic's part to injure … Like I said, if I saw an arm flare out, an elbow flare out or his path deviate in any way toward Miller -- leaving his feet, targeting the head, none of which was present -- I would have considered that intent," Shanahan said.
"So does retaliation prove, to a certain degree, intent? Of course it does."