Matt Carkner has been suspended one game for his actions in the second game of the Ottawa / New York series. That sound you might hear is thousands, if not millions, of NHL fans laughing and mocking at how once again the NHL discipline department has missed the mark.
One game? Seriously? Did they actually mean one game per punch landed by Carkner while Brian Boyle was defenseless on the ice? That would have made a lot more sense. It has been reported that Carkner hit Boyle seven, yes seven, times in the head on a defenseless combatant. Shanahan's rulings have spun the NHL Playoffs out of control and have initiated martial law for players unhappy with their opponents.
Brendan Shanahan was supposed to be an improvement as far as NHL discipline goes. He has failed. His action in the playoffs, or rather inaction, are shameful.
We already discussed how ridiculous it was the Nashville's Shea Weber got off with a $2,500 fine (pocket change to someone earning millions) for smashing Henrik Zetterberg's hit into the glass with clear intent. This set a nasty precedent for the 2012 NHL Playoffs, signaling to NHL players that dirty, cheap or late hits will not be punished severely.
Carkner's "play", seen above, is a disgrace to the game. We all can understand a player standing up for his teammate. However, we don't understand and will never understand repeatedly striking an opponent without your gloves while he stands there, clearly not willing to fight. This is an attack, not a hockey play. This is simply violence.
With all that in consideration, Brendan Shanahan suspended Carkner for one game. In this case, one game might as well have been zero games as it shows how timid the league, Shanahan in particular, is in suspending players in the playoffs. The result of his horrific job in a position of authority has spun the 2012 Playoffs out of control.
If you don't believe me, watch the Pittsburgh / Philadelphia Game 3 from Sunday afternoon. It's clear the players believe they need to take things into their own hands in terms of punishing illegal hits. It's as if they all know Shanahan will sit on his hands and continue to make a mockery out of the "discipline" system the NHL has. We saw James Neal make several dirty hits. We saw Arron Asham dangerously hit Brayden Schenn in the neck/face with his stick. The Penguins and Flyers spiraled out of control and turned what could have been an extremely competitive, entertaining hockey series into something that most closely resembled a mix of the UFC and WWE. There was name calling, unsportsmanlike play, and even hair-pulling. That's how far things have sunk.
A lot of us blame you, Brendan Shanahan. You have the power to prevent days like today from happening. You could have easily set the tone by suspending Shea Weber. Instead, you shied away, continually using the health of the victim in your "decisions" which is a system that is so severely flawed it's laughable. Attempted murder is still attempted murder regardless of the health of the victim, just like Weber throwing Zetterberg's face into the glass is still a violent act regardless of whether Zetterberg suffered an injury or walked away healthy. Suspend the action, not the outcome. You were supposed to bring consistency and improve the image of the discipline department, Shanahan. Instead it feels as if you have made things worse. Players around the NHL are behaving badly - really, really badly. They are acting like goons that aren't worried about discipline. They are taking matters into their own hands because they know you won't.
Fans, such as myself, are fed up with the joke that is NHL discipline. Shanahan was given a shot and he has failed - badly. The 2012 Playoffs have been a disaster, littered with so many ugly, cheap and dirty hits that are an embarrassment to the sport. We can all hope that Shanahan will suddenly find clarity, but realistically that's probably not going to happen. Who is next in line to try and bring some credibility to the NHL justice system?
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In fairness to the NHL, I'll take 29/30ths of Shanahan's salary as head of the Department of Player Safety, and render rulings for all teams except the Blues. They can use the remaining 1/30th to get somebody unbiased to cover my boys when they commit an appropriately suspendable act...
Honestly, I feel like they could just get a phone book from a neutral city, get a name or small panel of names at random, and have that person or group of people render supplemental discipline for the league. They certainly couldn't do much worse than the league's currently abysmal showing, and given all the room they have for improvement, the random Albuquerquians might even do a better job.