Slow-moving appeal hurting both the Calgary Flames and the NHL

Dennis Wideman has already served 19 games of his 20-game suspension with no appeal resolution. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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GalchenyukAlex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
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ZibanejadMika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators
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Why does the NHL's appeals process drag on so long?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman is set on Friday to sit out the 20th and final game of his suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson on Friday night. Maybe, just maybe, his appeals process will complete itself before the Stanley Cup finals? In all seriousness, the feeling had been that neutral arbitrator James Oldham was going to render his decision this week, so maybe we'll finally get it on Friday. Either way, what a ridiculously long process. Good thing for everyone involved that the Flames aren't in a playoff race. Imagine the outrage if they were. I mean, the incident happened back on Jan. 27, and we're still waiting for the the final appeal decision to come out. Never mind the fact Wideman lost any chance at playing earlier if Oldham's ultimate decision is to reduce the suspension. At this point, all Wideman can hope for is to get some money back from his suspension without pay. My concern is this: Do all the other NHL players look at this and figure it's not worth their time ever pushing the process to a second appeal ? The NHL and NHL Players' Association need to streamline this process. It's not excuse that doctors or experts or lawyers involved in this process were difficult to pin down schedule-wise. If you're on retainer for either the league or the NHLPA, that should mean you drop everything and make them your priority when this stuff happens. Yes, as you can tell, I'm cranky. This appeals process was way, way, way too long.

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Pierre, you raise an excellent point as always. When we chatted with deputy commissioner Bill Daly in Denver before the recent Stadium Series game, he indicated this process -- including a post-hearing debriefing by both sides to help the arbitrator sum up the evidence presented -- wouldn't necessarily be the model going forward. And while Daly was careful not to throw the NHLPA under the bus, he indicated the league was prepared to meet at earlier dates during the initial phases of the appeals process, but in part because of the complexities of the case, the union wanted more time to prepare. Fair enough. And really, regardless of whether the Flames are in the playoff hunt or not, they are part of the league and every night they play without Wideman has some sort of impact on competitive balance (I know, snarky people will suggest the Flames are better defensively without Wideman in the lineup, but you get my point). It was a shocking incident, but the length of time it's taken to fully adjudicate the case is a travesty in and of itself.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: If nothing else comes out of the entire Wideman episode, there's now a clear realization that there is a flaw in the system. This isn't a reasonable solution at all. Imagine if this were a higher-profile player on a team fighting to make the playoffs. There would be a daily publicly outcry over the length of time this has taken. Sure, Wideman may ultimately get money back, but that is only part of the equation. In some ways, the league and the NHLPA lucked out that the first time through was with a team outside of the playoff spotlight. They may not be so lucky next time.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: I think Pierre is trying to trick me into mentioning the New England Patriots, Tom Brady and Deflategate. During my 20 years in this profession, I have covered nearly every sport at every level, and the one thing I try to avoid is making comparisons. In this case, I'll make an exception, because whether it's Wideman or Brady, the league, the respective players associations, judges and/or arbitrators want the process to work. For Brady, it just so happens the process worked to his benefit and he didn't miss any playing time (yet). The Wideman situation has taken way too long and he's losing a lot of money in the process. If the decision is not announced by today and he misses his 20th game, it's going to be interesting to see if this is the end of it. After all, it's been over a calendar year and Brady is still battling his case. Blame Pierre for getting me fired up enough to mention the Patriots.

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