Setting Priorities Straight
BOSTON--Having dumped on Brendan Shanahan for going on two years now, I feel compelled to congratulate him when he gets one right.
And I think he nailed it on Eric Gryba.
Well, let me back off that just a bit, since I believe all NHL suspensions are, in general, far too short, which is why there are so many of them. Give Andrew Ference 10 for his latest sneaky elbow and he won't do it again.
But that's just me, and I don't have to answer to owners and GMs and all those who have an opinion on this things.
So within the parameters of his job and precedence, Shanahan nailed it.
Not that I think this one was a clear cut incident of hockey mayhem, but because it wasn't. In other words, suspending Gryba two games for his hit on Lars Eller was the hard way to go, while just saying it was a hockey play and play on would have been the easy way out and might have had just as much or more support among hockey people.
I'm still not sure this was a clear heat shot or a hit to the head as a principal point of contact.
What it was, however, was a hit on a vulnerable player and one that caused severe head injury. In an era where we're starting to understand the gravity of these head injuries and their long-term effects, this was a decision that basically said you can't go out and hurt a guy and inflict a brain injury just because the opportunity is there or because somebody gave that player a suicide pass.
That's old school thinking. New school thinking is that Gryba didn't have to make that hit, that he had options - how about going for the puck? - and elected to make the choice that simply isn't good for the game even if it was once seen as the correct course of action.
This is what we need from Shanahan. New school, not old school.
People in Ottawa, of course, will be up in arms about this, and it's unclear whether the decision will satisfy folks in Montreal.
But it's good for the game. And don't listen to the alarmists who say this is just the thin edge of the wedge that will lead to the NHL as the No Hitting League. Such nonsense. Did you watch St. Louis-Los Angeles go at it on Thursday night? Did that look like no contact hockey?
What the Gryba decision suggests - and it remains to see whether further decisions will back this up - is that this is, however, the No Hitting To The Head League.
That's just common sense. If they can ever find a way to consistently apply that standard with no exceptions they'll really be on to something.