Brendan Shanahan is leaving the NHL's Department of Player Safety behind and will be taking on his new role as President of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The man who brought Shanaban into the hockey lexicon will be leaving behind a position in which he became a centric figurehead for fruitless punishments and a pin cushion for fan anger.
Shanahan was eventually inherited the same criticism that his predecessor Colin Campbell faced. Fans still accused the NHL of the mythical “NHL Wheel of Justice”. A moniker aptly named to describe the inconsistencies in NHL disciplinary decisions.
Not too many folks are going to be too upset about Shanahan leaving his current position as the suspension Czar, but does he receive a good amount of undeserved blame?
Shanahan started off strong. His detailed video breakdowns of suspensions were a welcome sight and generated optimism that the suspensions process would be more transparent.
The punishments handed down at the beginning of Shanahan’s reign were stern and swift. He wasted no time and started issuing severe penalties in the preseason
The NHL’s new head of discipline hasn’t been shy about sending messages with suspensions so far, but Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski received the harshest punishment yet – it will sideline the team’s expensive new blueliner for the remainder of the preseason and eight regular season games.
That’s right; Brendan Shanahan handed out an 8 game suspension in an incident that happened in a preseason game. He handed out a suspension to a player who was the prime free agent acquisition of that team. At that point in time the Columbus market needed any boost they could get and Shanahan axed their shiny new toy for the first 10% of his debut season.
One general manager, who did not want to be identified, said he complained directly to Shanahan about what he sees as too much, too soon in suspending players for hits to the head under the beefed-up Rule 48. While the GM said he believed the majority of his fellow general managers were not happy with the suspensions, he also said Shanahan did not back down during their conversation.
Eventually pressure from the league won out over Shanahan and it influenced suspensions. In turn the length of punishments continued to be more lenient and less effective.
Basing suspensions on injury and doling out lighter punishments has done nothing to deter NHL players from their poor choices on the ice. The hope is that the players will take care of it themselves because they shoudl respect one another. That isn't going to happen. The league needs to be the one driving this bus.
Brendan Shanahan was nothing more than a puppet head by the end of his term.
It does not matter who the NHL hires to replace Shanahan, nothing is going to change. The NHL wants things run a certain way and there is nothing that the new NHL Senior VP of Player Safety can do about it.
Brendan Shanahan tried to do the right thing as proof by his suspension record at the beginning of his term, but ultimately he was just a cog in the machine.
It would be understandable if people were optimistic about a new hire trying to change things, but that just isn’t going to happen.
The most useful approach would be to suspend your own expectations. Real change is not on the horizon.
Thanks for reading!