CHICAGO -- There are plenty of questions surrounding the fate of Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, who may face supplemental discipline for his illegal hit on Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
After Shaw’s phone call with the league’s department of player safety early Monday afternoon it was assumed a decision on Shaw’s fate would be rendered by the end of that day. Was he going to be further punished? But late word from the league Monday afternoon said the decision is now coming Tuesday.
By rule the league must decide if it will hand down a fine or a suspension before the two teams play next. Game 3 is Tuesday night at the United Center. Why the wait, though? Most times a decision is made the same day, but not 100 percent of the time. So does Brendan Shanahan, who makes these decisions for the league, want to sleep on it? Is it something as innocent as the league had other matters to attend to on Monday?
Or is there more to it?
Another layer to the story was added when Smith didn’t take the ice for practice on Monday in Phoenix prior to the Coyotes’ departure for Chicago. Like the Hawks, the Coyotes had the day off on Sunday and all but Smith and two other known injured players -- Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski -- were on the ice on Monday. The idea that a goaltender would take a second consecutive day off without an injury seems remote.
“I told you we’re not talking about injuries, he’s fine,” coach Dave Tippett said Monday afternoon about Smith missing practice.
Like most coaches in the playoffs, Tippett has been tight-lipped about his team’s injuries. So “he’s fine” doesn’t really establish much about Smith either way, although the goaltender himself said he was 100 percent after the game. Why didn’t Tippett just say he was having a second day off if that’s all it was?
Since it’s been established that an injury can contribute to the severity of the punishment, Shaw could be in bigger trouble if Smith is showing effects of Saturday's head shot. Sometimes the true nature of a concussion doesn’t show itself until the following day or two. Or could the Coyotes be playing coy with Smith’s condition in hopes the league will increase the penalty even if Smith isn’t in jeopardy of missing games?
It’s hard to imagine a team would mess with a goaltender’s routine in order to punish a rookie third-line forward a little more. About as hard to imagine as a healthy player sitting out practice after a day off. Also, Shanahan is on the record saying teams will try to play games with his department in order to fulfill their agenda. Something has to give here.
The bottom line is if Shanahan is waiting for a medical update on Smith it will come one way or another on Tuesday. He needs to put the question to the Coyotes, if need be, “Is Smith playing?”
If he is, then Shaw’s punishment should be time served in the way of missing half of Game 2 and his team dealing with a five-minute penalty kill. If Smith is truly hurt from the head shot then Shaw’s penalty will undoubtedly increase. Confused? You should be.
The only two things we know are Game 3 will be played on Tuesday and a decision on Shaw’s fate will come before 8 p.m. CST.