"For anyone who wrongly suggests that physicality is being taken out of our game, we offer the following examples of good, clean, hard checks." —Brendan Shanahan(notes), Executive VP of Player Safety (and Infomercials)
Yeah, in yo face Milbury!
But seriously, the latest edition of Shannyvision offers "Clean Hard Hits and Good Decision Plays," a compilation of checks that the NHL deems legal. As with his previous suspension videos, this one offers a guide to players and coaches regarding what's allowed and encouraged under to current rules, a.k.a. how not to end up getting Shanabanned.
Yet the video also doubles as a highlight reel for legal checks; a short rebuttal to the critics who believe draconian enforcement of head-check and boarding penalties will lead to "two-hand touch football," as NBC's Mike Milbury opined this week. And there are some good knocks: Aaron Volpatti(notes) of the Vancouver Canucks on Jason Demers(notes) of the San Jose Sharks, for example, was a stiff open-ice hit that left contact with the head out of the equation (and eventually led to that one-punch fight with Brad Winchester(notes)).
This is like watching a VHS tape called "Brendan Shanahan's Rock'em Sock'em But Please Don't Intend To Illegally Injure'em Hockey."
Like the other videos, this one exists for two reasons: To educate some players about the NHL's guidelines for hitting, and as a public relations mechanism for the NHL to show that (a) it's on the J-O-B when it comes to player safety and (b) that you can police illegal hits without diluting the physicality in the League.
As David Backes(notes) of the St. Louis Blues told me this week (Q&A soon): It's not about taking hitting out the game, it's about going after the guys who know how to hit cleanly but choose not to do so; and then do this over and over again.
Here's the video from Shanahan:
Coming up, a look at all the gold stars he handed out to the kids.
Featured on the video:
• Joffrey Lupul(notes) of the Toronto Maple Leafs hitting Thomas Vanek(notes) along the boards, but not boarding him. We figure this is an example of a "good" hit when your opponent's numbers are facing you; as in, "Congrats, you chose not a drive his skull into the glass."
• Andrej Meszaros(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers with one of the better examples of "good decisions" in a game against the New York Rangers: Having the opportunity for a Mortal Kombat fatality-of-a-hit on Artem Anisimov(notes), but holding up and just taking the body along the end boards. Had this been Jody Shelley(notes), they'd still be sweeping up pieces of Artem Anisimov.
• Jordan Staal(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving Patrick Kane(notes) a little hit and a shove with his glove as the Chicago Blackhawks star was watching the puck in his skates along the boards.
We then begin the solid hitting portion of the video …
• Aaron Volpatti of the Canucks on Jason Demers of the San Jose Sharks, as referenced earlier. The kind of hit one imagines Scott Stevens would have added to the arsenal under these rules.
• Trevor Gillies(notes) (!!!) of the New York Islanders taking on Derek Smith(notes) of the Calgary Flames with a strong shoulder check while Smith's head was down. Again: Smith's head was down. Trevor Gillies was skating at him. And a legal hit was delivered. Is it too early to nominate Brendan Shanahan for Pope?
• Zac Rinaldo(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers delivering a legal hit after a shot by Patrik Elias(notes) that, in many previous cases, would have probably been a chicken wing to the noggin. As Marc Savard(notes) about it. Just don't expect a quick answer.
• • •
So what did we learn? That you can hold up and play the body rather than trying to skate through someone's spine long the boards. That solid open-ice hits can still be executed when the principal point of contact is the body. That Kris Letang is the Cal Clutterbuck(notes) of clean-hitting defensemen. And that someone finally turned on Trevor Gillies's emotion chip, allowing him to feel empathy.
Something else we've learned, rather quickly under the new NHL discipline regime:
That Brendan Shanahan and the Dept. of Player Safety should, immediately, take over the Lady Byng Trophy voting from the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Too many writers vote for this frivolous honor based on player reputation or by counting who has the fewest penalty minutes. Shanahan's group will watch every game, every night, and is tasked with showing the legal way and the illegal way of playing in the NHL.
Oh, but what about an independent vote? What about the sanctity of the Lady Byng election? Who cares. Let'em have it.