Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Brendan Shanahan, as the new wielder of justice for the National Hockey League, came out flying for his first shift.
Five games to Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. TEN games to Jody Shelley. And while the majority of those games were in the preseason, it sent a very clear and obvious message: Brendan Shanahan isn't here to screw around.
Media and fans alike are sighing with appropriate happiness over the new enforcement official of the NHL, he of the shiny new badge and requisite air of seriousness. Finally, here is a guy who Gets It.
The league wants to take dangerous plays like this seriously? Great. Shanahan's suspending guys who have a history of disciplinary problems longer than those who do not? Even better. It wasn't the first time in the principal's office for either player.
And that trend will continue given the indefinite suspensions to both James Wisniewski and Brad Staubitz over the weekend. Staubitz was suspended one game for an illegal hit in 2009 and Wisniewski, apart from the whole pantomime thing last year, most recently got eight for this horrible hit at the end of the 2009-10 campaign.
But there are a few questions people should be asking here.
The first is whether those two hefty suspensions already handed out — which would have been sixth and tied for second in the league, length-wise, last season — would have been quite so weighty if they had not included wholly meaningless preseason games or been to guys who are essentially goons?
(Coming Up: Dean Lombardi turns to the Red Sox for Doughty help; Devils' ownership mess; Panthers spelling fail; Saad days for Chicago; the World Cup of Hockey's return; the Avs are already banged-up; Loui Eriksson, sans Richards; Derek Stepan's snipe; Kyle Turris is delusional; Blues ownership bid weirdness; San Jose's bonds issue; a man with too many Caps tats; Malkin in Beast Mode; and does Nathan Horton know his teammates are texted apologies for hits?)
Let's be honest: Shelley and Letourneau-Leblond, who averaged 6:11 and 3:28 in ice time last year, respectively, aren't going to be especially missed by their teams, and certainly not before the season even starts. (The same will go for Staubitz, with his 6:31 TOI per game last year.)
While these five- and 10-game penalties sound really nice, people are not calling them what they were: one- and five-game suspensions. No one cares about guys missing preseason games. And yeah, five games is still a decent amount, but the long arm of the law may not have gone quite far enough in sending as firm a message as people are giving him credit for.
Was Shelley's hit really not as bad as when Tom Kostopoulos ran Brad Stuart last year (six games)? Was it only slightly worse than Raffi Torres elbowing Jordan Eberle in the head (four games)?
Plus, how are preseason games weighted versus those in the regular-season? Brad Boyes got a pretty good piece of Joe Colborne's noodle on Friday night and got two preseason games for it. Would it have been more or less or the same if this had happened in February instead of September? What about the playoffs?
Another issue is that having Shanahan stand in front of a camera and say, "Here's why this happened," is all well and good, but just reading from the rule book and sticking to the same language doesn't account for what the league often reminds us are nuanced, unique situations.
While we know that players' previous suspensions are now being taken into account, we also don't know what they count for. For example, would Wisniewski's two-gamer for the gesture at Sean Avery be considered the same type of discipline problem as Shelley's two-gamer for running Adam McQuaid? Do a pair of two-game suspensions count the same as one four-gamer? These are things we don't know, and need clarity on.
There should also be serious questions about what happens for Wisniewski or Boyes, well-paid players that are expected to contribute to their clubs. One thing they're not is off-brand cement-head intimidators like the other three guys. Wisniewski scored 10 goals and is expected to quarterback the Columbus power play.
Word of the Wisniewski hit was that it wasn't particularly pretty because it may or may not have been in retaliation for a clean hit on Fedor Tyutin (there's also talk of embellishment on Cal Clutterbuck's part). Of course, the general public is still not privy to video, but we do know that the hearing will be by phone, indicating that the suspension will likely be fewer than five games.
That's a little worrying given that we've seen the league drop the gavel hard on goons and lets star players skate with slaps on the wrist for similar offenses.
I understand we're still in the nascent stages of the new disciplinary system here, but if the guy people are now calling "Sheriff Shanahan" wants to carry around the big iron and clean up the town, he has to be ready to draw on anyone and act with the necessary amount of force. And then he has to be able to better articulate why.
The league needs a Seth Bullock. The Barney Fife days have to be over.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks dressed their big top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan against the Sharks on Friday and they still got buried 5-1. Randy Carlyle: not happy. Anaheim has lost its first two exhibition games 13-5 on aggregate.
Boston Bruins: Johnny Boychuk sent a text to Mason Raymond to apologize for breaking his back in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, and I'm sure Nathan Horton was A-OK with the decision.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres were still unbeaten in the preseason through Saturday night. Big-time W's over juggernauts like the Hurricanes, Habs B-team and Maple Leafs (twice). A fully staffed Columbus team dumped 'em 4-1 on Sunday, though.
Calgary Flames: If things stay as they are right now, your center for the line of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay is Mikael Backlund. Adjust your fantasy draft ranking accordingly.
Carolina Hurricanes: It's getting crowded on the Carolina blue line. There are 14 D-men listed in the linked article. Maybe if they dress all of them every night they won't bleed goals like they did last year.
Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Saad is making it awful difficult for the Blackhawks to send him down. Of course, they'll still do it because he's just 18, but still, strong showing from the kid.
Colorado Avalanche: Not a good start to the season for the Avs, who suffered through about a million injuries last year. Brandon Yip and the newly signed Jan Hejda are both out for multiple weeks.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets really hope their power play will be better this year. You mean last year's 13.95 percent wasn't good enough?
Dallas Stars: Everyone likes Loui Eriksson, but now he's gotta carry the water that Brad Richards used to haul without help. Hey Jamie Benn is almost as good as Richards right? No?
Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: Don't throw that last shovel of dirt on Fabian Brunnstrom's NHL career just yet. He scored for Detroit on Friday night.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oil are probably in the market for a puck-moving No. 1 defenseman. Them and about 15 other teams in the league.
Florida Panthers: You would think the Panthers could spell Tomas Fleischmann's name right. You'd be wrong.
Los Angeles Kings: Dean Lombardi recently asked Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein for advice on how to sign Drew Doughty. Guess what: It's because baseball has sensible second contracts built into their CBA.
Minnesota Wild: Eric Nystrom got run into by Colton Gillies, his own teammate, in the neutral zone Saturday and in doing so gave up an odd-man rush that went for naught. So Nystrom got the puck, went down to the other end of the ice and scored on a rocket shot. If I'm Nystrom I start paying teammates to run me every shift and see if I can match 92 in a season.