April 21, 2012
Length of Torres ban wrankles some GMs
By Eric Francis, Calgary Sun
Brendan Shanahan did the right thing Saturday.
Oh, sure, 25 games for Raffi Torres is over the top, but it’s exactly what the game needed him to do.
But don’t be confused into believing the NHL has set a new standard for supplementary discipline.
This was a one-off.
Good on Shanahan for finally being able to do what he’s wanted to do all season long — send a more powerful message.
He tried it in the pre-season with the 13-gamer to James Wisniewski but was immediately chastised by GMs who demanded he tone it down.
Those same GMs were upset again Saturday, although none wanted to go on record saying so.
Nonetheless, the shackles put on Shanahan by old-school GMs all season were removed this time by virtue of Torres’ serial brain-basher status. With Torres punctuating a week of heightened debate over increasingly dangerous play with his hit on Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa, never before had Shanahan been afforded such a wonderful opportunity to tune out all the noise and simply do what needed to be done.
Torres’ latest offence Tuesday broke three rules (and maybe Marian Hossa’s jaw) and was committed a few hundred feet in front of Gary Bettman at the tail-end of a week of disturbing incidents — all of which combined to make it the perfect storm of hockey heinousness.
Shanahan ruled accordingly.
It shocked everyone, but that’s exactly the point.
Good thing, too, because it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever get another chance to break free of the chains and rule as heavy-handedly again.
That’s because the NHLPA has it near the very top of its list to change the way the NHL’s supplementary discipline process has been run for decades.
Citing the fact players have more rights when fighting a $40 parking ticket than they do when sentenced by the NHL, NHLPA boss Donald Fehr is hell-bent on at least ensuring players have a proper appeals process to keep Shanahan, a tribunal or whoever rules the roost, in check.
If the NHL truly is a partnership, then Fehr can’t fathom how the players union has no say in how the players are ‘protected’/punished by the director of player safety.
You can bet next year there will be some other mechanism that gives players better representation in these hearings or, at the very least, through a proper appeal process.
Shanahan completely disregarded any templates he’s gone by all season long with Saturday’s ban of Torres, and as one GM said simply, “It’s about time.”
Added Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, “It is an important time to send a message and get our game back to skating and skill.”
The game needed this a year-and-a-half ago, but now it needs it more than ever.
Shanahan has said all along he’s not in the business of punishing players. He’s in the business of curbing players’ behavior.
Rulings like this ought to help do just that, although it’s almost a cinch the next headhunter will be slapped on the wrist — unless he’s a repeat offender.
It’s generally agreed around the hockey world the best way to curb such dangerous hits is to levy heavy suspensions.
Yet somehow there were still several GMs upset at Shanahan’s freelancing Saturday, which is almost as shocking as the suspension itself.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada