BOSTON--Part of the philosophy that guides the Brendan Shanahan School of Public Safety is that long suspensions aren't necessary, and that talking to players and convincing them of the need to change has already altered the way in which the game is played in a fundamental way, and for the better.
Shanahan has said he's convinced of this, that the process had produced a game in which players think twice about doing terrible things to each other.
Maybe. Still, with the Stanley Cup playoffs three days old, we're already into our second head shot hearing, with one serious head injury suffered.
Faced with a repeat offender on Thursday in Boston's Andrew Ference, Shanahan gave him a one-game ban for an unnecessary, cheap shot elbow on Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski. Ference is a smart, veteran blueliner and will be missed, so the suspension is to some degree meaningful.
Then again, if Ference didn't learn from a three-game suspension received last January from Shanahan, how will a suspension one-third as long in length change his way of thinking?
A more difficult case comes today after Eric Gryba's hit on Lars Eller on Thursday night in Montreal - about two hours after Ference's suspension was handed down - created a gruesome, bloody scene at the Bell Centre.
This is a tricky, tricky case, filled with the usual arguments and counter arguments. Some want to blame Montreal defenceman Raphael Diaz for the whole thing because he gave Eller a "suicide" pass, which is the hockey culture's way of desperately finding something to blame other than the person who perpetrated the act.
It was a bang-bang play, but Eller was vulnerable and the Ottawa defenceman delivered a glancing, partly blind side blow that knocked Eller out in mid-air, which is why he fell so grotesquely on his face, suffering lost teeth and a broken nose.
There will be debate over whether the head was the "principal point of contact," a absurd, fine line created during Shanahan's wobbly reign as hanging judge designed to make sure all head shots ARE NOT taken out of the game. Some head shots are still okay and good for the sport, is the line the Bettman administration chooses to take on this, apparently unaware of the long line of NFL players suing that league for not doing enough to stop head injuries in recent decades.
On the sidelines in this case are two owners, Ottawa's Eugene Melnyk and Montreal's Geoff Molson, who have both taken issue with the NHL's stance on violent play in recent years. Molson demanded league action after Max Pacioretty was injured by Boston's Zdeno Chara, while Melynk still is on the hunt for "forensic" evidence to prove Pittsburgh winger Matt Cooke deliberately tried to injure star defenceman Erik Karlsson earlier this year.
Lots of personalities in on this one.
Gryba may wriggle free on this on the "no intent" and "principal point of contact" defence. He offered the usual "I didn't intend to hurt him" and "just finishing my check" lines that are pretty much mandatory for any NHLer called on the carpet, and are often all Shanahan needs to hear.
This we know; the hit wasn't necessary, Eller was vulnerable and much of the hockey culture doesn't care about either of those issues and simply craves blood.
Doesn't sound much like anybody's changing how they think, does it?