MONTREAL, QC — The Twitter world was hit with a Shanabomb the moment Renaud Lavoie of RDS broke the news of Max Pacioretty’s three game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Kristopher Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The decision dolled out by Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety was deliberated all of Monday afternoon and much of the evening but once the news was made public, reactions were too.
The range of displeasure with the ruling from Montreal Canadiens fans ranged from outright idiotic to rather rational and well thought out. Of course there are those who believe there are conspiracy theories against the Montreal Canadiens and those who attempted to analyze the ruling with as much of an unbiased view as possible.
The largest complaint was that of consistency and that the only consistency out of the Department of Player Safety has been inconsistency. Those comments, along with the others throwing Brendan Shanahan under an eighteen-wheeler truck sparked taking a look at all the suspensions and non-suspensions handed out in 2011-2012 season.
|Ruling Date||Season||Player||Team||Act||# Games Suspended (P)||# Games Suspended (R)||History of SD|
|9/22/11||P||Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond||Flames||Boarding||4||1||1 suspension|
|9/22/11||P||Jody Shelley||Flyers||Boarding||5||5||2 suspensions|
|9/25/11||P||Brad Boyes||Sabres||Illegal check to the head||2||0||No prior history|
|9/26/11||P||Brad Staubitz||Wild||Boarding||4||3||1 suspension|
|9/26/11||P||James Wisniewski||Blue Jackets||Illegal check to the head||4||8||4 suspensions|
|9/27/11||P||Jean-Francois Jacques||Ducks||Leaving the bench to start altercation||4||5||No prior history|
|9/28/11||P||Tom Sestito||Flyers||Boarding||2||2||No prior history|
|9/30/11||P||Brendan Smith||Red Wings||Illegal check to the head||3||5||No prior history|
|10/1/11||P||Clarke MacArthur||Maple Leafs||Illegal check to the head||1||2||No prior history|
|10/3/11||P||Ryan Malone||Lightning||Illegal check to the head||0||0||Not considered|
|10/9/11||R||Pierre-Marc Bouchard||Wild||High stick to the head||2||No prior history|
|10/18/11||R||Kris Letang||Penguins||Boarding||2||Fined in 2011 for similar hit|
|10/29/11||R||Daniel Carcillo||Blackhawks||Boarding||2||Fined & suspended multiple times|
|11/1/11||R||Andy Sutton||Oilers||Illegal check to the head||5||Fined & suspended for various illegal checks|
|11/3/11||R||Patrick Kaleta||Sabres||Ramming head into face of opponent||4||Fined for same act against T.Zajac & T.Enstrom|
|11/14/11||R||Milan Lucic||Bruins||Contact with a goaltender||0||Not considered|
|11/16/11||R||Chris Stewart||Blues||Boarding||3||No prior history|
|11/25/11||R||Andre Deveaux||Rangers||Illegal check to the head||3||No prior history|
|11/28/11||R||Max Pacioretty||Canadiens||Illegal check to the head||3||No prior history|
|Total Regular Season||NA||24|
Since the preseason, Shanahan has prepared supplemental video explanations for 18 hits and has suspended 17 different players.
Of the 17 suspensions, eight have been for illegal checks to the head, seven have been for boarding, one for an illegal high stick, one for ramming the head into an opponents face and one for leaving the bench to start an altercation.
The only non-suspension video produced was for the Ryan Malone hit to the head of Chris Campoli. The reasoning behind not suspending Malone was due to the fact that “Campoli’s head position significantly changed just prior to the hit”. Shanahan explained that “Campoli’s loss of the puck and subsequent bending forward for it just prior contributed significantly” to the principal point of contact being the head.
Acknowledging that this hit was the most challenging to that date, Shanahan provided a clear explanation in accordance with rule 48.1 with the focus being on the verbage ” the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit”.
Seemed fine to me.
Although not explained with video footage, no suspension was given to Milan Lucic for significant contact made with Ryan Miller in a puck chase. The reasoning presumably being that incidental contact is permitted when the goaltender is in the act of playing the puck outside the goal crease. That of course assumes the player made reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.
Shanahan deemed that to be the case.
Of course, that is widely debatable.
I for one could have been spared with Lucic’s sly look on his face during the post game interview and the bogus line about “bracing himself” for the hit, but ultimately I was ok with the non-suspension for checking a goaltender in open ice in pursuit of the puck.
Afterall, if Cole did the same thing to Tim Thomas Habs fans would be clamoring for a memorial to be erected in his honour.
Fans have been gripping that there has been no consistency yet when you look at the numbers, suspensions for hits to the head have been relatively consistent in terms of regular season games. I have ignored preseason game suspensions in the numbers below.
The maximum number of games dolled out was eight with the minimum being zero with appropriate justification (Malone on Campoli). The eight games assessed to James Wisniewski was clearly on the high side given his history and the fact that the act had occurred following completion of the game.
The most popular number of games for an illegal hit to the head has been five games and three games both occurring twice as terms. The average number of regular season games assessed for an illegal check to the head has been 3.25.
That is a quarter game over what Max Pacioretty was assessed for his hit on Letang.
Similarly, boarding suspensions have averaged 2.57 games with a maximum of five so far and a minimum of one. The most popular number of games for a boarding infraction has been two.
The numbers can be manipulated in a variety of ways and of course there are subjective factors that must be implicit in suspension rulings such as a player’s supplemental discipline history, but ultimately Shanahan is creating his own case law for suplementary discipline in the NHL.
It is the acts in the table above that must be compared to one another going forward and not acts in the past. Historical suspensions or non-suspensions made by previous disciplinarians cannot be grounds for arguments for or against rulings made by Shanahan now.
The rules were not even the same prior to Shanahan’s tenure.
The NHL is making forward progress in reducing the number of hits to the head and boarding hits from behind in the game and a quarter of the NHL season in, 17 players have averaged a suspension of three regular season games for committing such an act.
And that is exactly what Max Pacioretty was assessed.