April 16, 2012
Punishments don't fit the crimes
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI AGENCY
Here are a few things that have us all scratching our heads about why common sense in the NHL suddenly has derailed -- maybe not a good word to use, as this is being written on a train en route to Washington from Philadelphia -- less than a week into the post-season.
To those fans and media members who are perplexed about the frontier justice that seems to have engulfed the league, you are not alone in your confusion.
Respected Philadelphia Flyers vet Kimmo Timonen says he never before has seen a Stanley Cup playoff that has featured so many reckless acts by players.
"I think if you look around, the whole playoffs have been like that, not just our games (against the Pittsburgh Penguins)," Timonen said. "I watched games this weekend and it has been like that.
"I don't know what it is but it's disappointing. There are some guys running around who don't usually do that, who are not supposed to do that. I don't understand that."
You're not alone, Timmo.
So let's see if we get this right.
Shea Weber grinds Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass -- twice -- with a little face smear at the end for good measure.
His punishment is a $2,500 fine.
On Monday, the NHL announces Ottawa Senators forward Zenon Konopka has been slapped with the same fine for "his verbal abuse directed at a New York Rangers player conducting a live television interview nearby during pre-game warmups." In addition, the Senators received a $10,000 fine for Konopka's yapping prior to Game 2.
In other words, the punishment for bouncing an opponent's head off the glass is the same as for using bad words to an opponent that were captured on TV. In fact, since his team was hit in the wallet for his yapping, too, the perception is that Konopka is paying a heavier price for wagging his tongue than Weber did for his actions.
League officials likely would argue that the two incidents are unrelated. In many respects, yes, it is like apples and oranges.
And yes, they could not have fined Weber more even if they wanted to (and they probably wanted to) because $2,500 is the maximum fine allowed under the CBA.
Where league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is at fault is for not suspending Weber, even for one game.
Explain this: There have been various suspensions handed out this season to forwards who, while coming in on the forecheck, have virtually no time to peel off when a defender turns into the boards at the last second, making it a case of being hit from behind.
Those high-speed incidents take place in the blink of an eye.
On the other hand, Zetterberg and Weber were pretty much stationary when the Nashville defenceman decided to bop Zetterberg's noggin into the glass, making it very much appear as a pre-meditated act.
Despite what you might hear, Weber, while playing on the edge, is not known for being dirty. And, no, Zetterberg was not injured.
That doesn't take away from the actual act itself.
Shanahan is a stand-up guy. He has been up front in explaining all his decisions, which he did Monday when he told a New York radio station that he considered suspending Weber for one game.
If the determining factor not to sit Weber was the fact that Zetterberg was not hurt, well, on that issue we agree to disagree.
Shanahan had a chance to set the tone for supplemental discipline in the playoffs by suspending Weber. He didn't do it. Now the league must live with the ensuing chaos and horrible publicity.
If you want to question the decision-making (and you should) of league officials such as Shanahan, Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy, Kris King and so on, fine. But some of the personal attacks questioning their integrity are way off base. These guys care ... Having a good chuckle at how the same people who shamelessly ripped Campbell and welcomed Shanahan as a saviour have now started to carve Shanahan. The bottom line: It's a thankless job ... Campbell, by the way, was never as bad as his critics made him out to be ... Having said that, the officiating to date in these playoffs has been subpar. NHL officials easily are the best of the so-called "big four" sports but, with four officials on the ice, there is no excuse for missing how far Danny Briere was offside in Game 1 of the Pens-Flyers series with Pittsburgh leading 3-0 at the time. Brier's subsequent goal was the turning point in the series ... The same holds true for the James Neal cheap shot on Sean Couturier in Game 3. The puck was nowhere near Couturier when the blow was inflicted, yet no penalty was called. Truth be told, referees Eric Furlatt and Francois St. Laurent never had control of the game from the get go.