Brendan Shanahan took no prisoners during his first few weeks on the job as the NHL's dean of discipline. Handing out suspension after suspension, each detailed with video explanations featuring some cool graphics, the league's senior vice president for player safety truly earned the nickname "Shanaban."
Looking back on it, ruling with an iron fist was one of the smartest things that Shanahan could do. He hit the ground running and established a precedent, while gaining the respect of plenty in the process.
For the most part, he's done a pretty solid job, at least in terms of putting the fear of God in players (like when 24/7 caught Brandon Prust minding his P's and Q's in a game against the Panthers because he didn't want to be suspended for the Winter Classic).
Shanahan may least have players mindful and cognizant of the consequences that will face for reckless play, but there is still one developing hallmark to the league's revamped disciplinary efforts that has apparently carried over from the previous regime — inconsistency.
The latest example of that comes from the Bruins-Senators game on Saturday night in Ottawa where Sens forward Kyle Turris delivered a shot to the head of Bruins defenseman Joe Corvo.
The hit earned Turris a two-minute penalty for boarding, but Shanahan and the NHL announced Sunday that Turris would not be disciplined further.
"After reviewing the video extensively as we heard Turris' explanation of how the play developed, we concluded that the head was not targeted intentionally or even recklessly and that the circumstances surrounding the hit contributed significantly to the amount of head contact that resulted," Shanahan said in a statement.
Every hit is different, but Turris' hit on Corvo does bare some resemblance to a recent hit that was punished fairly harshly by Shanahan. Alexander Ovechkin received a three-game ban for this hit on Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek.
Shanahan offered a detailed explanation for the discipline in which he explained the hit as charging because of the fact that Ovechkin left his feet to deliver the hit. Shanahan explained that Ovechkin "launched" himself into Michalek to deliver the hit.
Turris also left his feet to deliver the hit on Corvo which, like Ovechkin, turned the head into the principal point of contact.
You can see in the photo above pretty clearly that Ovechkin and Turris are both clearly off of the ice to deliver their respective hits.
It's also pretty clear that Turris makes contact with Corvo's head with his hit. In fairness, though, you could make a case that the worst of the hit came when Corvo's head bounced off the glass, but it's abundantly clear that Turris makes direct contact with Corvo's head.
Is this a violation of Rule 48.1 as well? The argument could certainly be made that it is, as the head is certainly the principal point of contact. The only question is whether or not Corvo put himself in a vulnerable position. He clearly doesn't see Turris coming, and he's in the process of following through a pass. Is that vulnerable? Perhaps in Shanahan's eyes it was.
The case for discipline can certainly be made when it comes to the Turris hit. He skated free, though, thanks to a couple of pieces of criteria that Shanahan obviously deemed integral in the decision-making process.
The most glaring difference between the Ovechkin hit and the Turris one is the two players' past history. Ovechkin had been fined and suspended before for reckless play, and Shanahan admitted that Ovechkin's history played a big role in the process. This makes sense to an extent, but it's another one of the factors that lead to inconsistency in the league's disciplinary process.
Turris has no record, and while Shanahan and the league do not mention that in the statement, we can only assume that it played a role. This sounds like flawed logic, though, as we're deeming a dangerous play by one player less dangerous because he hasn't been reprimanded in the past. It makes sense that someone with a rap sheet will be punished stronger than someone with a clean record, but if someone with a clean record commits a crime, they should still be punished for the act. Turris, however, gets off without even a fine.
The fact that Corvo, while shaken up, skated off and returned to the game surely played a part as well. Shanahan has openly admitted in his videos that injury does play a role in discipline, something that may be the most asinine aspect of the whole process. What does it really matter whether or not a player gets hurt? Just because someone gets lucky to survive serious injury doesn't mean that another should be lucky enough to skate because there was no harm.
If I punch you in the face, that's punching you in the face. I'll be punished. I won't be punished because you have black eye, I'll be punished because it's against the law to punch you in the face. When you allow injury to play a into the disciplinary decision, it only invites inconsistency.
If Nathan Horton had lay motionless on the ice following a hit from Tom Sestito last month in Philadelphia instead of getting up to retaliate, would Shanahan have suspended the Flyers forward for the high hit? Those are the type of questions you invite when you base discipline on immediate outcomes of a questionable hit. And in that situation, Sestito avoided discipline while Horton played five more shifts in the game and hasn't played since as he suffers from a concussion.
Of course, this sort of inconsistency will beg the question from Bruins fans: Are the B's being treated differently by the league because they're a physical team that plays on the edge? Probably not, at least not in this type of scenario. Not even the NHL would be backward enough to try and send a message to a team by allowing its opponents to deliver shady hits without consequence.
This has less to do with the fact that Corvo wears black and gold. Instead, it's just another show of inconsistency when it comes to disciplinary decisions.
Now, instead of disciplining Turris, Shanahan has left it up to the players to make them pay if they feel that's necessary. The Senators are in Boston on Tuesday night, and Turris will be there. There's always the chance that Bs' will take matters into their own hands.
If they do, they may be hearing from Shanahan in the days that follow. What comes of that would be anyone's guess, and that's the real problem.
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