Brendan Shanahan once again, got this wrong and for many reasons.
Alexander Ovechkin was suspended for 3 games for his Air-Jordan hit on Zbynek Michalek. (Shanahan video here). Michalek also had a hearing today for elbowing the Capitals Matt Hendricks. Michalek was penalized during the game, but received no supplemental discipline. I have two issues with the suspensions today.
1. Michalek should have been suspended. Regardless of what team he played for and the fact that it was somewhat of an accident, if the Department of Player Safety wishes to ban headshots, then all headshots should be penalized. It was careless and Michalek admitted what he did it. Hendricks was extremely fortunate that he was not injured. I do not believe that Michalek’s hit was “dirty” in the sense that he sought out Hendricks with the intent do harm. Hendricks went toward the boards low. Had he been erect, this would have looked vastly different. That does not take away from the fact that Z has to be accountable for his actions on the ice and be more in control of what he is doing. I believe he had time to adjust and minimize impact on this play.
The other issue here is that the main reason I believe Z faced no penalty is because he is 1. not a repeat offender and 2. Hendricks suffered no injury on the play. This is failed logic, once again by Shanahan. You punish players for breaking a rule and playing recklessly. Not for injuring someone. You learn no lesson for your actions. The fact that Hendricks wasn’t injured in this case is pure luck.
If the NHL is serious about banning headshots, then all headshots are punishable. I have proposed several times a 5 game minimum for the first infraction with a head shot, zero tolerance policy. I love Z. I think he is a fantastic player and asset to the Penguins organization, but Shanahan dropped the ball.
2. Ovechkin is serving 3 games for a clearly dirty hit that is consistent with his history as a player and consistent with his prior suspension history. As a repeat offender, clearly 3 games is too little, especially when players like Matt Cooke had to serve 17 games total for repeat offenses. Get some consistency. Get a system. Up the amount of suspensions each time a player is suspended. I believe for a second offense of an illegal hit where the head is the primary point of contact that a player should have to serve 15-20 games out and attend safety training camp during their suspension.
Change must start at the ground up. The NHL is not recognizing this.
Also, in addition to the videos that Shanahan produces explaining why players are being disciplined, either a video or a statement should be released each time a hearing does not result in discipline to help players, coaches, the media and fans understand Shanahan’s decision. It is a missed opportunity for education and greater transparency in the league.