Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s Senior Vice President, Player Safety and Hockey Operations spoke up yesterday for the first time yesterday about why there was no suspension handed down to the New York Rangers‘ Wojtek Wolski for his blind side headshot on Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.
From NHL.com, here is Shanahan’s full interview (the Alfredsson discussion begins at the 5:00 mark):
Some thoughts on what he had to say about the incident. I think his argument is convincing, but in this case doesn’t really fit what happened. This crackdown on headshots was spearheaded (no pun intended) in part by the blindsided hit by David Steckel on Sidney Crosby at last season’s Winter Classic. The Crosby and Alfredsson hits are very similar in nature, with one glaring exception: Steckel’s elbow never came up.
Shanahan’s assertion that Wolski ran into Alfredsson while “trying to get to his point” rings pretty hollow based on the fact that he was almost stationary at the time of the hit. Alfredsson was looking back, but Wolski was facing the puck. If Wolski’s peripheral vision is so bad that he didn’t see Alfredsson coming then he shouldn’t be in the league. In my opinion, if Wolski has time to get his elbow up to the head level, then he knew it was coming and it was a targeted headshot.
Some anti-Senators fans will point at the Chris Neil hit on Mikhail Grabovski earlier this season and call it the same kind of hit:
I would like point out that Neil used his shoulder, not his elbow and that while it probably should have been an interference call, Neil didn’t target the head of Grabovski. In fact, if you look at the first angle, I am not convinced Neil actually made contact with the Leaf’s forwards head. Grabovski went off the ice but returned shortly thereafter.
If you look at the library of Shanahan’s video explanations on NHL.com, there are essentially 6 criteria he seems to look at when determining is supplementary discipline is warranted, as well as length of said discipline:
- Was the play legal or illegal?
- Did the “victim” make a sudden movement just prior to or simultaneous to the contact?
- Was the head the initial point of contact?
- Did the “offender” make attempts to minimize the contact?
- Does the “offender” have a past history of NHL discipline?
- Was there an injury on the play?
If you were checking off the checklist to determine if there should be a fine and/or suspension, you could check off 5 of the 6 criteria to support a suspension. The only one you couldn’t lean toward the negative is pointing to Wolski being a “repeat offender”. And due to the lack of punishment, the next time he does something like this, he will still not have a record of discipline for such actions, and his punishment will reflect this incident.
Yes, the hit on Alfredsson came after another questionable hit by Zenon Konopka that resulted in an over-reactionary call from officials who handed him a 5 minute major for boarding on Artem Anisimov. Replays clearly showed it as a hit where Konopka seemed to do all the right things to avoid contacting Anisimov from behind. I understand that hockey is a fast-moving game and officials make mistakes, and that is why there was no supplemental discipline to Konopka. The rage of Ottawa fans is also buoyed by the fact that the victim in this case was Alfredsson.
However, Shanahan had a chance to send a message to the league on the Wolski hit, that you need to be in control of not only your stick but your elbows. His assessment that Wolski is not a dirty player and that it was an unfortunate collision between two players is flimsy at best. Wolski had time to raise his elbow up and step into the hit, which was more than “bracing himself” in my opinion. Alfredsson has missed two games with the resulting concussion and will miss at least one more. Alfredsson or not, a Senators player or not, I think that there is clearly enough evidence to have suspended Wolski for at least a game or two to ensure that he has a record should an incident like this happen again.
I think Shanahan missed the boat on this one.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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