Last night, we saw yet another head shot as the Tampa Bay Lightning's Ryan Malone laid an elbow into Chris Campoli. There is no question that the head was targeted, but there will be those who will argue that there was no actual intent by the Lightning winger. They would be wrong in doing so.
For those who saw the game, Malone ran rampant throughout the night. Whether someone urinated in his orange juice Saturday morning is undetermined, but his frustrations certainly hit a peak in the third period.
NHL Senior VP Brendan Shanahan, aka the new sheriff in town, will certainly be taking the hit into review and we can expect a meeting and decision by Monday evening. As far as I can see, Malone would be a first time offender, and unfortunately for Habs fans, Shanahan cannot factor Malone's whole game activities into his decision.
Shanahan has already issued a series of suspensions in the last week, from head shots to leaving the bench to fight, totaling 22 games which has put a massive donation to the players relief fund.
As much as I like Shanahan's actions, and his detailed video explanations for the offenses, it has to be questioned whether or not it is going to change things.
When you see a series of incidents condensed into the preseason alone, one has to wonder how bad it will become in the regular season when the intensity of the players will rise as the season progresses?
Whether the first time offenders learn their lesson will remain to be seen. We already know the league has it's share of repeat offenders (James Wisniewski, Matt Cooke), who clearly didn't get it during the limp wristed rule of Colin Campbell. One Twitter follower put it this way, "They're like children, they will continue to do it, hoping the parent will eventually cave."
Hopefully the new sheriff/new parent's zero-tolerance attitude gets the point across on all accounts, and carries it forward that big name players are not exempted to a minimal fine. That was something Campbell erroneously avoided in his tenure.
The VP is even taking into account any non-calls on the ice, as was the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs' Clarke MacArthur's hit to the head of the Detroit Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader Thursday night. Shanahan is clearly sending a message to the players in this manner, and in the process telling the on-ice officials to do their job correctly.
The real problem will come on the borderline calls, that could be deemed unintentional by many coaches, players or GMs. No matter what the league does, players are going to get hit in the head playing hockey be it accidental or intentional. Shanahan does detail whether of not an offending player could have avoided a hit, but if he continues to drop the hammer on even the slightest infraction, it will only be a matter of time before the league has to yet again revisit the wording on a rule that is not even two years old.
One also has to wonder how long GMs and ownership will tolerate Shanahan's decision making if it seems that the players are not getting the message, and team's start seeing star players (ie: their money makers) getting suspended or continuing to get hurt. While Shanahan's efforts are for the benefit of the game, the knuckle draggers of the league may force him out before the changes can hold.
We'll likely need to see a full year of Shanahan's decision making, to gauge if there was any improvement, but if the last week of pre-season is any indication, we could get our answer by December.