1189 for publication October 28, 2016
Before we get deep into the World Series, I have a problem to settle with the NHL.
During September’s NHL exhibition season, Andrew Shaw was tagged with a suspension of three pre-season games for one of those definitely illegal head-first boarding hits on Caps defence prospect, Connor Hobbs.
As usual in these matters, Shaw could explain that he was the victim of slew-footing earlier in the game and decided to even the score. This was the critical Canadiens opener of the “tryout season” and Shaw deemed it critically necessary to set the tone for the rest of his season, plus other innocent culprit’s too.
To show who was in charge in the fight that ensued, Shaw held off his opponent with one hand, and with the free arm egged-on the homer-crowd to yowl louder in appreciation of his dominance. When he was satisfied, he landed two punches that ended the fight.
He’s a tough guy, and no-one on ice will dispute that fact. But his disregard and comprehension of the rules and the subsequent penalties and suspensions, and ending up in the press box, require clarification. He, and others like him, must recognize they’ve got a problem, not the reverse. Until Mr. Shaw discovers he can be a tough guy and stay within the rules of the day, he must be subject to the results.
Confusing? Sure, but necessary in the world of players whose job it is to mete out “payback.” In a thirty team league, it’s easy to see how this can become a memory nightmare, unless you’re a player adhering to the “take a number and deal with it now” rule. We’ve seen them, they’re called “goons.” That role can be taxing.
So, after serving his suspension and back in the lineup on the Habs opening night, a road game in Buffalo October 13th, he received a five-minute major, plus a match penalty for slew-footing the Sabres Johan Larsson in the waning seconds of the game. This case now is somewhat short of “smart.”
Still, regardless of who tripped who, or what was done when, the culprit in this typical dumb-bum case is the NHL. Why? When you have rules you enforce them. Geez, it’s the reason you have rules in the first place.
If the governing body wants to lean on a malcontent who defies the rules and treats them with continuing disdain of the governing body, in this case our NHL, then they are obliged to take it seriously and put the hammer down.
As I’ve said many times before and I will write again, the NHL’s up-side in this scenario is the start of the season, the perfect time to set the tone and mete out tough justice. If that decision is reached and applied, it should be all the wake-up call necessary.
Well, the NHL may be “obliged” to grudgingly dole out penalties and suspensions, but following up has never been their trademark, and they’ve stuck to their usual distance in this case. Stephane Quintal, heading up the NHL’s the Department of Player Safety, thought “a chat” about the situation, and the problem’s it presents, would be rough enough for Shaw. Really?
No fine, no suspension, no penance required.
After the “educational” meeting Shaw emerged sounding anything but contrite, instead coming across cocky and cavalier. “… I tripped the guy, but it wasn’t vicious,” he said. He sounded like many other hard-done by players explaining away their treatment or suspension.
The bare-faced truth is slew-footing is dangerous, no matter how gently it’s applied. It’s sort’a like a “soft head-hit” thrown at a player such as Sydney Crosby. It doesn’t take much to end a career, and it’s disappointing to hear a selfish position taken by a player who considers himself a “stand-up guy.”
Well, it’s still early, the perfect time to set the standard for the rest of the NHL season to enforce their rules, and put players on notice, before the playoffs loom and the crying towels come out.
The NHL “hands off” theory has been tried before, often in fact, by the Bettman regime.
And, it’s downright disappointing to see them back down from their responsibilities all over again.