Monday, April 27, 2009

Arbitrary & Capricious

Well folks, by now you've heard that Mr. Donald Brashear has been hit with a six game suspension for his actions in Game 6. One game (which was automatic) for his run-in with Colton Orr during the warm-up and a whopping and inexplicable 5 games for his slightly late (the puck had been gone for about 1 second) hit on Blair Betts which broke his orbital bone. Betts is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs.

We understand the automatic part of this suspension but have a huge problem with the discretionary part because of the standards already set by the NHL in the series. First the NHL dropped the ball by ignoring Sean Avery's unwarranted punch to Simeon "the Saviour" Varlamov's face near the end of Game 3. If a punch to the face of a goaltender pitching a shutout with just under 2:48 left isn't "sending a message" then could somebody please tell us what is? Especially considering the message the NHL sent to a message to Daniel Carcillo of the Philadephia Flyers and Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins for "sending a message" in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguin Scum and Montreal Canadians respectively.

And if the NHL is trying to cut down on head shots, what about Sean Avery's actions in Game 4 where he made unnecessary contact (drawing blood in the process) with Milan "Jerky" Jurcina and followed it up with a two-handed high stick to the head of Brian Pothier that was anything but accidental. Then there was Colton Orr attempting to clothesline Alexander "Slappy" Semin with 5:46 left in another 4-0 shutout, this time in Game 5. No suspensions were handed down by the NHL for any of those actions either.

We guess it was because the Saviour, Jerky, Pothier, and Slappy weren't hurt enough to miss time. We remember Dale Hunter's hit on Pierre Turgeon in the 1993 Playoffs against the Islanders. Part of Gary Bettman's rationale for a then record 21 game suspension was that Turgeon would be lost for the rest of the playoffs as the Rangers are currently claiming with Betts. However, after about 5 games in the second round against the Penguin Scum in 1993, Turgeon came back to the lineup. So you can understand why we think that Betts will only miss the rest of the playoffs if the Rangers do not win Game 7 tomorrow night.

Finally what has us really angry about this is the tone of the press release from the NHL. One gets the feeling that the NHL wanted a harsher punishment for Mr. Brashear but if you read the press release announcing the suspension for John Tortorella, you feel as though the NHL regrets having to discipline Tortorella and did so only because they had to under the league's own directives. Tortorella attacked fans at the game. Brashear attacked a player on the ice and oh by the way, the referees the NHL assigned didn't think it was worthy of a penalty at the time in a game where the calls were lopsided against the Caps.

However, what is done is done. While we once again wish that the Caps brain trust would scream bloody murder over yet another disparity going against the Caps, we know that isn't going to happen. After all, we have yet to see any of the respectable hockey press attack the Rangers for refusing to accept John Tortorella's suspension. We have to think that their excessive whining, (which only Sally Jenkins called them out on) played a large role in the length of Mr. Brashear's suspension. What we want to see if how other incidents such as this one will be handled by the NHL later in the playoffs. Something tells us, whatever the decision is, it too will be just as arbitrary & capricious as this one was.

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