When the NHL named Brendan Shanahan its new "player safety" czar, I had high hopes, and Shanahan's efforts at transparency - producing videos to explain his suspensions - seemed like a positive step.
All of that goodwill has now evaporated.
Exhibit A is from Monday night's Wild-Avalanche game, as Colorado's Cody McLeod follows Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon into the end boards. Keep in mind that part of Shanahan's commission is to cut down on hitting from behind, boarding and hits that result in head injuries:
You see McLeod do all the things you're NOT supposed to do: Hit vulnerable player from behind, drive him into the boards, cause impact to the head. The refs did all they could, giving McLeod a major and ejecting him from the game. Shanahan then made fools out of the referees by not only NOT suspending McLeod, but not even bothering to have a hearing.
This comes on the heels of last Thursday's game, when Edmonton's Lennart Petrell does this to Marek Zidlicky:
Very similar: From behind, into the boards (Petrell actually pushes him...watch the left arm extend as the play progresses), player in a vulnerable position, direct blow to the head. Again, no suspension.
And THAT came just a few games after this shot to Pierre-Marc Bouchard by Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian:
Let's see: vulnerable player, along boards, direct blow to the head....sound familiar? Well, so was the NHL response: No suspension.
And here's one more for good measure. Colorado's David Jones on Nov. 17...Again we have a player in a vulnerable position (Justin Falk waiting for a puck to come down), a player leave his feet to make a check, a player's head targeted as the principal point of contact (a phrase Shanahan loves to use). Watch the play:
Again, nothing from the league. The message from Shanahan and the NHL is now this: Checking from behind, boarding, driving player's heads into the glass...none of this is a problem as long as you're willing to risk a penalty. The league is perfectly fine with it, so long as you don't hit anyone named Crosby, or anyone wearing a Toronto or Montreal sweater.
(And I'm not even bothering posting the video of Edmonton's Ryan Whitney performing one of the dirtiest and most dangerous plays in hockey, sticking his knee out on Cal Clutterbuck.)
The Wild leads the league in man-games lost to injuries, and at least three of these plays contributed to that by causing multiple games to be missed.
I played hockey for the better part of 30 years, and I understand the inherent risks of a fast, violent game. And if the NHL doesn't want its "Department of Player Safety" to do anything, that's fine as well. I'm okay with letting the players police this all themselves. But don't pretend you have an interest in cutting down on concussions and then let players go scot-free when they make illegal, dangerous plays that result in injuries.