There’s something delicious about this image when you’re talking supplemental discipline in the NHL.
It’s obvious that few people think that the NHL does a good job of handing out supplemental discipline. Be it Colin Campbell or Brendan Shanahan, there’s something to disagree with in nearly every decision. On-ice officiating can be questionable enough due to the speed of the game and what the officials catch, but when you send a hit or a play up the chain of command, you expect different. You expect them to view the hit multiple times from multiple angles to determine the legality, or lact therof, in the play. Sometimes, however, the decisions given — or the decision to not even view a hit — are as questionable as the hit itself.
It would be next to impossible to go through and detail all of the things that NHL fans have had issues with so far this season in regards to suspensions, fines, and the like. Instead, I’ve decided to look at one individual and his missteps that should have run afoul of Shanny, but haven’t. I do want to make the statement that, while I haven’t exactly been the largest fan of P.K. Subban in the past, it’s not because of his play. I think that as he matures, he will be a solid NHL defenseman and an asset for the Montreal Canadiens. I often question his attitude and how he approaches the game; in what will be the only time I will type these words, Mike Richards and I have a similar opinion.
Recently, Subban’s been in the news for quite a few instances. It seems as though every time I think of writing something regarding him, right before I think the story might be passe he does something else to wind up popping back up in NHL chatter. The initial issue so far this season was his elbow to the head of the Bruins’ David Krejci on January 12th. Krejci himself said that he didn’t feel that the hit was dirty, though his teammate Andrew Ference promptly challenged Subban after the hit — and challenged his character after that. It might not’ve been an intentional elbow, but the elbow did appear to make contact with the head. Regardless of if Krejci himself was injured (or thought the hit was legal), this is textbook suspension material:
Turtling and then trying to presumably talk smack afterwards not withstanding (and kind of non-sensical), this was a risky play by Subban and is something that the league is trying to minimize. The result? No supplemental discipline. The two-minute elbowing minor was deemed sufficient.
Another example of an incident that more than likely deserved a suspension happened this weekend, when Subban took down Chris Kunitz with a pretty flagrant slew-foot. Suspensions for slew-footing aren’t common — the latest I could find was Evgeny Artyukhin getting a three-game suspension in 2009 for a slewfoot on Matt Niskanen. Fines seem to be the most common punishment for these offenses, despite the fact that they’re extremely dangerous hockey plays. It could be argued, I guess, that the league might want to take this a bit more seriously. While they did look at the play and decided it needed more discipline, a $2500 fine is barely a slap on the wrist for something that could injure another player seriously. If a player makes a habit of doing it — and Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney points out that this isn’t the first time that Subban’s done it — giving him a fine that amounts to maybe an hour’s worth of work really doesn’t do much as a deterrent to the behavior.
If these mistakes are symptomatic of the fact that, as Jacques Martin put it, Subban has a “lack of comprehension about how to play a game,” they’re not going to be fixed by being ignored or lightly disciplined. That the NHL has deemed them such, not just for Subban but in many other situations with many other players, what’s the deterrent to commit penalties? Paranoia that you may or may not get a call from Shanny in the morning?
When you have a league that looks at hits like this cross-check into the boards by Drew Doughty on T.J. Oshie earlier this season, and Henrik Zetterberg’s boarding of Nikita Nikitin on January 21st in the same basic way, you have an issue. Doughty got no penalty on his play, nor did he get any supplemental discipline. Zetterberg got a five minute major and a game misconduct, though will not receive any extra penalty. If both of those plays are not worth the NHL addressing after the fact, then the league is implicitly saying that both are the same kind of play.
Talk about mixed messages.