CALGARY - Just when we had hope the NHL was actually serious about clamping down on nefarious actions in the playoffs, Brendan Shanahan doused it with ice cold water.
In an interview with ESPN, the league’s lord of discipline said he sees each playoff series as a “seven-game season” and, therefore, being suspended for one playoff game is worth considerably more than a regular-season game.
“I can attest to this as a player, if you ask me if I’d rather have a four-game suspension in November than a one-game suspension in the playoffs, I’d take the four-game suspension in November,” Shanahan said. “If you think about it, that one game in the finals is the equivalent of a 12-game suspension.
“I don’t feel we’re in the punishment business. We’re in the changing player behaviour business. You do that by getting a player’s attention.”
Sorry, Mr. Shanahan, but the best way to actually get their attention is make any action that’s worth three games in the regular season worth three games in the playoffs.
Then, we might actually see a change in attitude.
Let’s just look at events from this past week.
Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan was just recently fined for a boarding hit on Calgary Flames’ Mark Giordano — just over a month after hitting Giordano from behind in another game — and then nails Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn with a chicken-wing style elbow and is given a three-game suspension.
Suffice to say, the blind eye and slap on the wrist didn’t get Doan’s attention.
How about Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner? Days after being warned for a slew-foot, Skinner again shows no discipline and does something even worse by kicking Scott Nichol and received a two-game banishment.
And now we have Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith awaiting punishment for taking the Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks heated rivalry to another level with a brutal elbow to the face of Canucks superstar Daniel Sedin, which seemed to be in retaliation for a high hit he took from Sedin earlier in the game.
Unless the NHL actually clamps down on antics such as these, it’ll become all the worse in the playoffs. Therefore, make what’s a three-game punishment in November worth three games in April.
After how last year’s Stanley Cup final degraded to the point it was impossible to cheer for either the Canucks or the Boston Bruins, the NHL doesn’t need these kind of gong-show antics.
And the league must change it’s way of thinking about doling out punishments.
Turning a blind eye only allows things to escalate, as the NFL discovered with the bounty scandal in New Orleans.
A couple of things could go in the Flames’ favour should the club end up tied with any team for a playoff spot. The first tiebreaker is wins, not counting shootout victories. The Flames have been dreadful in those, so they should have more regulation/overtime victories. Also, the Flames have won the season-series against the Colorado Avalanche and the Phoenix Coyotes and can win it against the Stars and the Los Angeles Kings. Should the Flames end up tied for seventh or eighth, those factors may come into play ... Signing St. Cloud State forward David Eddy may not turn into a boon for the Flames, but it is a good sign the club is taking more interest in college free-agents than in years past.
YOU DON’T SAY
“After 73 games, if you’re not black and blue, you’re not playing the right kind of hockey.”
— Montreal Canadiens D Josh Gorges to the Montreal Gazette
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak