Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun break down the NHL's two suspensions from Thursday:
Burnside: Remember in "48 Hours" when Eddie Murphy announces in a bar that there's a new sheriff in town? Well, Brendan Shanahan, the new lord of discipline for the NHL, didn't waste any time in establishing just where the bar is going to be set for players who display disregard for other players' safety. In a matter of hours Thursday, Shanahan first suspended Calgary's Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for five games (four preseason and one regular-season) for his hit on Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Clackson; then, he handed Jody Shelley of the Philadelphia Flyers a 10-game ban (five preseason, five regular-season) for a hit from behind on Toronto's Darryl Boyce.
At the risk of betraying my bias, I am literally standing up and applauding Shanahan. When it was announced that Shanahan was going to take this job this past spring during the playoffs, many people wondered if it would be more of the same from a league whose supplemental discipline had been wildly inconsistent. Well, we're still a couple of weeks away from the regular season, but I think it's fair to say Shanahan has already put his stamp on the position. Thoughts?
LeBrun: No question. Shanahan hit it out of the park in his first disciplinary rulings. But let's also be honest, he got two nice gimmes with a pair of tough guys whom no one is going to miss too much in the lineup. The real test will be if Alex Ovechkin decides to ram Matt Cooke's head through the glass with a hit from behind. Still, you have to give Shanahan credit for the stiffness of the suspensions. It sends a clear new message.
How impressive was his first act? I reached out to Flames GM Jay Feaster and asked him for his thoughts on Shanahan and how the process went.
"I thought he was very thorough, very prepared in the hearing," Feaster told ESPN.com. "When he called to explain his decision and his rationale, it was clear he had listened to people. I give him high marks."
And that's from the GM whose player was suspended.
Burnside: I am pleased to hear Feaster respond in such fashion. Last season, I remember when Tom Kostopoulos was suspended for six games for breaking Brad Stuart's jaw with a reckless hit and there wasn't the same supportive tone. And we've heard loads of complaints from GMs and coaches when their players have received suspensions. My guess is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has laid down the law across the board and said, "If you want this stuff out of the game, you can't whine when it's your guy." And good for Feaster for responding as he did. I assume Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren will take a similar tack. What did you think of the video explanations that came with the suspensions? I loved them.
LeBrun: The videos were fantastic. It removes all the guesswork. I think fans will really win out with this. I was lucky enough that former discipline czar Colin Campbell returned my calls (most of the time, with the bigger suspensions, I got a pretty good explanation from him). After that, it was up to me to pass that on to my readers and viewers. But what Shanahan is doing with these videos is clearly taking it to a new level in terms of transparency for fans. By the way, I am also told Shanahan plans to do some videos for other controversial plays that may not warrant suspensions. For example, he would have done one for the Zdeno Chara-Max Pacioretty incident. So that's another thing to look for this season.
Burnside: You know, I've had my issues with how the NHL handed out discipline over the years and I wasn't the only one. I recall a GM calling the process the “Star Chamber,” a reference to justice handed out in secret. Well, those days appear to be gone, and this will go a long way to taking the mystery out of what is and isn’t acceptable in this league. It's early, of course, but there's no time like the present to chart a new course. Next week, we may end up hammering Shanahan and the league, but somehow today suggests that may not be the case.
LeBrun: It's a brilliant debut. With players watching those videos and seeing the harsh suspensions, you have to think they will get the message, too. Shanahan's not messing around. Here's hoping Shanahan can find the energy and moxie to deal with the rigors of this role from October through June. He'll need to be tough when a veteran GM tramples all over him after a suspension the GM doesn't like. There will be tough days. The job took a toll on Campbell after many years. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Today, Shanahan was bang on.