March 26, 2012
Shanahan slapped as big a penalty on Keith as he could
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Most people outside the greater Chicago area seem to think the NHL missed a golden opportunity to send one of those oft talked about but never delivered "messages" by giving Duncan Keith just five games for his hit on Daniel Sedin.
Fact is, Brendan Shanahan sent as powerful a message as he's capable of given the parameters he's been handed by the league's GMs.
Five games for a first-time offender means had he been a repeat offender, he would have been sitting for more like eight or nine -- significant numbers, indeed.
There can't be a human alive who liked the hit or wants to see it again in the NHL, but it's important to note that Shanahan's heavy-handedness earlier this season was met with shocking fury by GMs who pulled the reins back on the big Wisniewski-type Shanabans.
It's understandable the Canucks are quietly seething over this one as their Stanley Cup dreams could be dashed if their top goal-scorer's resulting concussion is out for an extended period of time. They were led to believe that by switching Keith's hearing to an in-person appointment (even though he chose not to show) the league was poised to slap the Hawks defenceman with a groundbreaking banishment. They also felt perhaps the NHL would be somewhat influenced by the NFL's harsh treatment of the New Orleans Saints coaches and start getting tougher.
Don't forget, it was the Canucks who lost Aaron Rome for four games in the Stanley Cup final when they needed him most -- a sentence handed down by Colin Campbell.
They are victims in every way, prompting many like Elliotte Friedman to wonder if Vancouver's plan moving forward will be to finally muscle-up and take matters into their own hands.
For those wondering why more hasn't been made of Sedin's preceding shoulder to shoulder/head hit on Keith should know I spoke to Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, and he wasn't overly concerned about it. The Hawks have to be content they won't be losing their star blueliner for any playoff games, which he will now be well-rested for.
Interesting to note there may also be playoff implications for the officials who oversaw the game -- Dan O'Halloran and Francois St. Laurent. After seeing the video, there has been an internal admission they obviously blew the two-minute call and perhaps failed to gauge the rising temperature of the game. Given the fact every official is on notice that every game is an audition, it could end up costing them playoff assignments.
While many are furious over the hit and the suspension, keep in mind Keith and the GMs should be your principal targets, not Shanahan, who extended his reach almost as far as he's capable.
Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world that will tune in in record numbers to watch a Masters tourney that just got a Tiger-sized injection of intrigue.
AROUND THE HORN
Footnote on Brent Sutter's decision to sit his two best goal scorers -- Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen -- for the Flames' latest shootout pratfall. Their two replacements, Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak, were a combined 11 for 34 in their shootout careers, which just so happens to be the same lifetime success rate (32%) as Iginla and Jokinen, making it a prudent move in every way, especially considering the two higher profile Flames have not been getting the job done in the skills competition this year "¦ Oilers stud Taylor Hall hasn't skated with the team since Tuesday, and while GM Steve Tambellini says a decision hasn't been made yet on when he'll return, they have to be seriously considering shutting him down for the season. They'd be foolish not to given the fact there's nothing to gain from his return. Why risk further injury or the possibility of accruing more points, which obviously hurt in the long run "¦ Many think this summer's draft will be significantly different this year because of the two Russians atop NHL Central Scouting. The belief is teams in the top three will deal down to get assets and avoid top-rated Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko for fear they'll pull a Radulov and bolt for the bigger money in the KHL instead of waiting around for the NHL to figure out it's CBA issues. Tambellini has already gone on record in this space declaring his team is open to shopping or swapping its top pick.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada