Shanahan taking heat
Raising suspension bar very high
ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
|NHL Senior Vice-President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)
CALGARY - While Brendan Shanahan’s pre-season videos and suspensions have been roundly applauded by fans and the media, a small group of GMs are so upset they’ve lodged complaints with the commissioner.
“We wanted the bar raised, not doubled or tripled,” one GM told QMI Agency Saturday.
He went on to say there was “widespread disbelief at this” and that, “yes, the head shots will stop, but so will hitting.”
He said it’s one thing to pass up a hit when a player is vulnerable, but now he sees lots of guys passing up clean hits.
Starting with the 10-game, $500,000 hit James Wisniewski took, the harsher punishments have certainly altered play and players’ mentality.
But isn’t that the whole point of the exercise?
Brain injuries need to be reduced and Shanahan is doing his part to try getting players to respect one another’s coconuts a little more.
The large majority of GMs stand by the league’s tougher stance and knew there would be growing pains. The players admit it’s simply a matter of adjusting to the new rules and standards.
For the record, the league loved the big hit Dion Phaneuf laid on Stephane Da Costa midway through Saturday’s Leafs win. Punishing yet clean.
When Shanahan took the gig, he knew there’d be days like Thursday when Don Cherry lit him up. The hope and belief is that he’ll remain undaunted.
One GM who has been pushing for no-touch icing for five years said “it will pass now (at the GMs rules meeting in March) — the public pressure is too great.”
In the interim, NHLPA spokesman Mathieu Schneider says the officials need to have zero tolerance in terms of contact being made during one of those races that one GM told Schneider was “one of the most exciting plays in the game.” (Schneider checked and he wasn’t kidding.)
One GM said get rid of the trapezoid first and then goalies can save teammates from having to race back. Schneider says NHLPA head Donald Fehr is spending plenty of time, as part of his team tours, finding out players’ thoughts on moving towards a no-touch or hybrid icing rule to try preventing the type of dangerous races that left Oilers prospect Taylor Fedun with a broken femur.
Almost every player I’ve spoken to wants hybrid icing at the very least, so why have the GMs been voting it down for years?
Sean Avery has decided he will, in fact, join the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, while his agent Pat Morris looks for possibilities overseas with an eye on giving Avery the best possible chance to get back into the NHL next season. While the Rangers could send him to a European club, he doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t think it’s a high-profile enough team to land him another NHL shot next year.
Interestingly, Avery may not be in the NHL anymore, but his name lingers as lawyers continued dealing last week with the NHLPA’s grievance over the rule modifications made following Avery’s antics three and-a-half years ago involving waving in Martin Brodeur’s face.
While the union agrees the league’s introduction of the Avery Rule was the correct course of action to defend the game’s integrity, it wants to ensure that going forward all rule modifications need to go through the competition committee.
Anyone who ever saw Brendan Shanahan’s shoulder pads will have no trouble believing he and Mathieu Schneider are both working towards reducing the size of shoulder pads in the NHL … Director of officiating Terry Gregson said one of the big directives given to officials this year is to keep the game safe.GMs also made it clear at their last meeting they don’t want to see any more “snowing” of the goaltenders, so an unsportsmanlike penalty is to be assessed any time an official believes a player intentionally sprays a goalie … Brian Burke said he’s certainly in “listening mode” when it comes to trading some of his blueline depth, but any talk linking him to Sam Gagner in Edmonton is false. Burke even took the time to send Oilers GM Steve Tambellini an e-mail letting him know none of the Gagner talk came from him.