Written by: Ray Hagan (@rayhagan19)
Raffi Torres just got 25 games for something nearly identical to the same hit that James Neal delivered to Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers. Take a look at the two hits, here and here. Now I'm not advocating that Raffi Torres didn't deserve the suspension, he did. As a matter of fact, I'm of the opinion that he probably didn't receive enough of a suspension. Part of his discipline was based on previous conduct, and the fact that Marian Hossa was injured. Neal has also been the recipient of previous discipline, though not to the degree of Torres. If you watch those two videos you'll see the similarities are astounding. Both checked players have and lose the puck, and are then blindsided by an opponent who leaves his feet to deliver the illegal check.
The fact that Neal on the same shift delivers an illegal hit to Claude Giroux in a game that was out of hand after the hit on Couturier shows that the first hit was intentional, despite his claims that it wasn't. You can actually see that he changes direction while curling away from Couturier to deliver the leaping check. Brendan Shanahan accepted Neal's assertion that he leapt to brace himself for the impact. I call shenanigans. Neal got 1 game. I repeat: Torres got 25. The fact that Giroux and Couturier were not injured doesn't change the fact that Neal's intent was the same as the intent of Torres. Neal was out to hurt both players. Now look at this video. I'm not a Blackhawks fan. I understand that Shaw took the route towards the goaltender, and that he could have taken a different route, that said, he clearly had no way to avoid the collision once he had reached there. The hit was not as hard as many other hits and the acting job of the netminder is impeccable. He acted as if he'd been shot in the head, not caught with a glancing blow by a player who did not have much of a way to avoid him.
If you watch the videos, at the end they explain the "key points" that lead to the discipline. Case 1: Penalty of Charging No Injury to recipient Previous disciplinary action for illegal hits. Case 2: Penalty of Charging No Injury to recipient No Previous disciplinary action for illegal hits. Case 1 got 1 game…case 2, Andrew Shaw, got 3 games. Based on the recent, in many cases, overly aggressive play in the NHL Playoffs, the suspension for Raffi Torres comes as no surprise. He's a career goon with a history of illegal hits. This was Shanahan's chance to send a message to the whole league. The problem is that Shanahan did not give Neal the suspension he deserved. And when you compare the second illegal Neal hit with the one by Shaw, the penalty of one game for Neal versus three for Shaw seems totally absurd. This complaint probably comes as the whining of a Flyers fan, and sour grapes. It's not. The problem is that the whole NHL supplemental discipline program is completely arbitrary.
Arron Asham of Pittsburgh cross-checked the Flyers' Brayden Schenn in the chest…not in the face. He followed that with a punch to the back of the head of the downed player, a glancing blow, with the glove still on and Schenn wearing a helmet. There's no defense for these actions. The key points by Shanahan:
Case 1 - Match Penalty for Crosschecking (to the chest), no Injury to the recipient, no previous disciplinary action for illegal hits. Case 2 - Match Penalty for Crosschecking (to the head), no Injury to the recipient, no previous disciplinary action for illegal hits. Case 1 (Asham) received a 4 game suspension. Case 2 (Nicklas Backstrom) received a 1 game suspension. That's right, a cross check to the chest followed by a glancing punch is worth four times the discipline of a cross check to the face. That's absurd. I'm not contending Asham didn't deserve 4 games. I don't know what the proper discipline was for Asham…what I do know is that for Asham to get 4 games to Backstrom's 1 game is ludicrous. I'm calling for an overhaul of the NHL supplemental discipline system. There's no question, that like in the NFL, there is a need for someone to oversee discipline beyond the penalties that are given out on the field, or ice. The NHL system really seems to be completely arbitrary, and that is my issue. The Torres/Neal hits, while not identical, are eerily similar. Torres gets 25 games, and Neal skates away on a very weak explanation, despite the fact that he delivers another dirty hit less than 50 seconds later. That illegal hit has similar circumstances to the Andrew Shaw hit, though Shaw did NOT leave his feet to deliver his check…yet somehow Neal gets 1 game to Shaw's 3. When you include the Backstrom/Asham penalties for similar plays being as different as they were…it's clear that Shanahan is overmatched as the head of NHL discipline.
As the lone man delivering these punishments, Shanahan is the only one to blame. I'm frustrated seeing penalties that seem like they were decided by throwing darts at numbers on a wall. It's like giving one student a detention, and another a suspension for the same infraction. That cannot be acceptable to NHL players, coaches, or fans. The thought process behind delivering this supplemental discipline as the NHL calls it is twofold. 1.) The player receiving said discipline acted in a manner which requires that they be penalized beyond what occurs on the ice. 2.) The discipline should be seen as a precedent, and as a warning for players who make similar actions in the future. There needs to be some uniformity in discipline, otherwise you're not getting the second part of that thought process across. What Shanahan has told NHL players is that they are better off cross checking to the face, than to the chest. He's also told them that they are better off delivering a flying check to a forward than they are making incidental contact with a goaltender. Finally he's let them know that you can throw yourself in the air and blindside an opponent, as long as you make an excuse, and that player doesn't get seriously hurt. Otherwise you receive 25 games. Intent means absolutely nothing, it's only the end result that matters. That doesn't make sense.
As silly as it sounds, the old saying "it's the thought that counts" really does hold weight here. Neal's intent is clear, he was trying to deliver a cheap shot to, and injure Couturier. He succeeded only on the first part of that. What I wonder is if Couturier had been injured like Hossa if Shanahan would have accepted his flimsy excuse, or had Hossa not been injured if Torres would have been able to claim the same. I believe that there should be clear guidelines for supplemental discipline with a committee doling out the punishment rather than an individual. I lobbied before the start of these playoffs that the NHL playoffs were the best in all of sports, and I stand by that. Sadly for me, this year they have been marred by players going above and beyond taking their games to another level. Certain players have elected to take dirty play to another level as well. I can't justify, nor support the behavior of Neal, Asham, Torres and Backstrom. I refuse to put Shaw in that group. He was clearly a victim of a goaltender who acted like he was looking for a Roughing the Kicker flag. The outrageous discipline administered to Shaw is another reason that one man shouldn't be delivering these penalties.
If the NHL decides that the current system isn't broken, that one person can dish out the punishments, it absolutely shouldn't be Brendan Shanahan. He is making arbitrary decisions that are unfair to the players. He's under qualified, and overmatched. NHL supplemental discipline is a necessary evil. Brendan Shanahan's version of it, and vision of it, is not.
Written by: Matthew Blunk
The Philadelphia Flyers aren't the only NHL team keeping busy this summer.
One week after locking up left wing Taylor Hall with a seven-year contract, the Edmonton Oilers signed forward Jordan Eberle to a six-year, $36 million extension. The newly "man-strong" Eberle posted 34 goals and 76 points in 78 during the 2011-12 season, in a breakout campaign for the 22-year-old right wing.
Written by: Matthew Blunk
Amidst the uncertainty of this NHL offseason, with murmurs of a potential lockout to come, the Philadelphia Flyers have signed two more players to long-term deals.
Philadelphia signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a 6-year, near $24 million extension on Aug. 16. On Monday, the Flyers agreed to extend forward Scott Hartnell with a 6-year, $28.5 million deal. …
Written by: Matthew Blunk
1) Evgeni Malkin, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
2) Sidney Crosby, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
3) Claude Giroux, C - Philadelphia Flyers
4) Steven Stamkos, F - Tampa Bay Lightning
5) Jonathan Quick, G - Los Angeles Kings
6) Alexander Ovechkin, F - Washington Capitals
7) Henrik Lundqvist, G - New York Rangers