Brendan Shanahan, NHL senior vice president of player safety, has once again proved that if he is not flipping a coin to decide whether to discipline players, he must be trying to confuse the players and fans. His rulings – and non-rulings – have been so wildly inconsistent as to beggar the imagination. If he was purposely attempting to make people believe that he was ruling randomly, he could not do a better job.
The man does not mete out justice fairly. He is so scattershot in his rulings, that there is no way players or clubs could possibly anticipate what he is going to do next. The one thing – the one thing – an authority figure should be is consistent. Even if he Shanahan is unfair, he should be unfair to everyone. Parents need to present a united front in order to instill discipline in a child. If Dad decides one day that the penalty for sneaking a cookie before dinner is no TV before bed, and the next day there’s no punishment, and the day after that the kid is grounded for six months –what’s the penalty for sneaking a cookie? Who knows? Ask Brendan Shanahan.
The latest incontrovertible, iron-clad proof of Shanahan’s inconsistency is the NHL’s failure to even schedule a hearing to look into Ottawa Senators Chris Neil’s high hit on the New York Rangers’ Brian Boyle, which forced Boyle out of the game and left him with a concussion.
It appears the hair-splitting that Shanahan is using this time is to rule that while Boyle’s head was the initial point of contact, the rest of Neil’s hit was against his body, making the “principle” contact Boyle’s body, not his head. This ludicrous non-distinction flies in the face of Shanahan’s own policy of punishing players who “target the head.”
So, what constitutes “targeting” the head if not hitting the head first? Can I initially slam into, say, somebody’s hip and yet still “target” his head? The other insane corollary to this new argument is that players he previously disciplined must have “principally” the victim’s head, and not his body. So only hits that contact the head count? Since when? From today forward? Or until the next loopy comment from Shanahan?
Sure, Shanahan has a very difficult job, but to suggest that he’s in a no-win situation and should therefore be allowed to continue along is foolish. I don’t hear much dissent regarding his decision to suspend Phoenix’s Raffi Torres for 25 games for an egregious hit. When Shanahan makes the correct call, people applaud it. So, when he screws up, he needs to be called on it. Is his job too tough? Then quit!
Now, it’s easy to dismiss this criticism as sour grapes by a disgruntled Rangers fan (which I am), but you would be wrong. I am absolutely 1,000 percent correct when I say Shanahan is inconsistent with his “justice.” I’m not saying he has to rule this way or that way on any particular case; just be fair and consistent. Make the same ruling every time, not randomly.
Of course, to be fair, there is one sense in which Shanahan has been consistent (aside from being reliably inconsistent): His playoff rulings have punished teams he used to play for. The New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings have come out on the short end of Shanahan rulings – and this is twice now for the Rangers in just five games! This is a matter of record; an inarguable fact. There is no interpretation needed. Now, the question is, Is Shanahan going out of his way to punish his former teams in order to “prove” that he isn’t “favoring” them? I can’t say that, but if I played for the New Jersey Devils, I would brace myself for Game 6.
There is one other possible explanation: Shanahan is very bad at his job. As in, “this guy needs to be fired” bad. If I performed my job as poorly as Shanahan does, I would certainly be fired. Or I’d be a weatherman.