GMs want goalie crashers tossed
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
|Vancouver Canucks Alexander Edler (R) and Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews (C) crash into Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo during the first period in Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final in Vancouver, British Columbia April 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)
The next NHL player to run a vulnerable goalie might just as well keep going into Brendan Shanahan’s office for a lengthy suspension.
With about 20 of the 30 general managers in Toronto on Tuesday taking a dim view of Milan Lucic getting off with a minor for bowling over Ryan Miller, league vice-president Shanahan will be treating the next aggressor much differently.
“There is certainly a heightened sensitivity to the well-being of all the goalies in this league and the extreme importance of a goaltender in that position,” Shanahan said. “Certainly they’re not fair game and players have to understand that. If anyone thinks it’s a tactic and a smart gamble on their part, it won’t be.”
Shanahan was attempting to placate the leader of the hawks in this cause, Sabres’ GM Darcy Regier, who now has an all-star suffereing from concussion and whiplash. A range war between the Sabres and Bruins was threatening to break out Nov. 23, but Tuesday’s talk seems to have calmed things.
“I’m satisfied today,” Regier said, having had a lively one-on-one with Shanahan. “The fact they (goalies) have never been trained to give or take hits, and the need to protect them was realized as important.”
Shanahan said he can’t see a new rule being rammed through channels now to protect goalies, but the next meeting in March could produce such legislation if more trouble occurs.
“There’s a lot of pressure and congestion in front of the net and goalies have the right to make a save and the right to be protected in their work,” Regier said.
Miller told reporters in Buffalo on Tuesday that he doesn’t buy Lucic’s story that he couldn’t get out of the way.
Some might find it surprising that Toronto’s Brian Burke was not right behind Regier. Its No. 1 goalie, James Reimer, hasn’t played in three weeks since he was conked in crease traffic and suffered an injury similar to Miller’s.
“This is not a rampant issue, this is not an epidemic,” Burke said. “(Lucic-Miller) was more of a stand-alone incident.
“We need players to drive the net. When James got hurt, we didn’t feel it was worth a suspension and I still feel that way. I don’t think it was an accident, but we want players to crowd the net and James was outside the paint when he got bumped.”
GMs Steve Tambellini of Edmonton and Ray Shero of Pittsburgh were among those urging goalies get the same kind of safety net inscribed in the rules for NFL quarterbacks.
But senior executive VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell, who used to have Shanahan’s discipline duties, was a little wary of the fuss that has been kicked up.
“Every play is different,” Campbell said. “Are you going to get goalies leaving the crease and will there be embellishment (to draw a penalty or suspension)? You have to be careful.
“It seems every GMs meetings there’s a play where there’s a hot button (incident). At the March meeting two years ago, it was (Marc) Savard being hit by (Matt) Cooke, prior to that it was (David) Booth being hit by (Mike) Richards. Last year before the March meetings it was (Zdeno) Chara-(Max) Pacioretty. And every time there’s a controversial hit, we asked the managers what they think.”
Hence the Tuesday summit with new man Shanahan, who had already rubbed some of them the wrong way with his early-season blitz of suspensions.
“I’m not a policy maker, I’m a policy enforcer,” Shanahan said. “I looked forward to this meeting, not just for the goalie situation, but for a few others that I felt more clarification was needed. I tried to take them through the process of a suspension, what is applied, how it’s applied, when it gets applied.
“It was more a talk about the sensitivities of the job that I do. Certainly the recognition that it’s not black and white. It’s gray.”