Brendan Shanahan has ruled with an iron fist since taking over as the NHL’s vice president of player safety, doling out suspensions for dangerous hits, whether they were intentional or not. Despite that definitive hard line, Shanahan will not hold a disciplinary hearing with Washington’s John Carlson for his elbow to the head of Matt Cooke on Thursday night, according to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post.
Wait a minute … what?
The hit from Carlson came with 4.1 seconds left in a Washington loss. Carlson plays for a Capitals team that just fired its coach and has lost four in a row and nine of its last 12 games. Carlson’s follow-through with his arm showed what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to deliver a blow to an opponent’s head.
This season, in Shanahan’s explanatory videos posted on NHL.com, he’s repeatedly said that even if such a hit is delivered unintentionally, it must be punished, because players must be responsible for other players’ safety. Yet when a player demonstrates what seems like clear intent to hit a player in the head, he won’t even have a hearing?
It seems fishy, to say the least.
Sure, the victim, in this instance, is Cooke, a 33-year-old with more than a decade of cheap shots on his resume. While he won’t get much sympathy from most fans and players, that cannot give players a free pass to light him up at will.
Consider that Montreal’s Max Pacioretty was suspended three games earlier this week for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. Shanahan said Pacioretty must “avoid picking Letang’s head,” but that he didn’t and therefore is responsible for the head shot that was delivered, intentionally or otherwise.
Watch the hit below, and though the quality is questionable, ask yourself if the head was the principle point of contact and if the hit was reckless. Look at the follow-through of Carlson’s arm and take a guess at whether or not the hit was intentional.
Again, Cooke has dished out so many of these hits (and worse) over the years, and he escaped without punishment for a blind-side head shot that essentially ended Marc Savard‘s career, so it’s hard to stand up and try to argue he’s being treating unfairly. Still, Shanahan, the czar of punishment who’s already dished out 17 suspensions in just three months, is going to have some explaining to do.