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"The message going forward is that goalies are not fair game. They're not. And I'll view each and every case on a case by case basis. But it would certainly be a horrible idea for anybody to think that this is a tactic to use and that the decision has been made that this is an allowable offense regardless of what people feel about my decision on this last one."
Those are Brendan Shanahan's comments to me from a Nov. 15 interview after the GMs meeting in Toronto in the wake of his decision not to further discipline Boston's Milan Lucic for his collision with Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
Obviously, Jordin Tootoo didn't see that quote from Shanahan. If he had, the Nashville Predators winger surely would have known better than to run straight at a goalie like he did this past Saturday night. Miller was in his first game back after missing eight games with a concussion he suffered from the Lucic play. That only added to the political overtones of Shanahan's Tootoo decision. The final ruling: a two-game suspension for Tootoo.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier was hot under the collar after Shanahan didn't suspend Lucic. He asked (demanded?) the topic of goalie protection be put on the agenda for the ensuing GMs meeting and was pleased with the nature of the discussion.
This time around, there were no complaints from Regier on Shanahan's decision regarding Tootoo. Asked via text Tuesday whether he was OK with the suspension, he responded: "Yes."
It will also be difficult for Predators GM David Poile to criticize Shanahan’s decision on Tootoo. After the Nov. 15 GMs meeting, Poile said he didn't want his goalie, Pekka Rinne, to get hit the way Miller did in the Lucic incident.
Tootoo had only one previous suspension for on-ice altercations, so his repeat offender status didn't weigh heavily in this one. But what was a bigger factor in the ruling was that Tootoo was given a five-minute major for charging on the play in question, not a minor penalty for goalie interference. To Shanahan, the charging penalty determined by the on-ice officials was the right one, and it signified a greater intent on Tootoo's part.
From the NHL's perspective, those factors, combined with the renewed focus to protect netminders, was enough to warrant a two-game ban. And I'm fine with that.