In recent years, the NHL has made significant progress in protecting its players from unnecessary contact to the head. The sport is evolving past its previous era, when concussions were the natural product of "good hard hockey" and were treated with a couple slaps upside the face and some smelling salts. This shift toward player safety is a fantastic development for the sport and should be applauded. However, the league's inability to uniformly enact discipline is simply deplorable.
Andrew Shaw's dangerous hit against Francois Beauchemin last night, where he used his helmet to impact the Avalanche defenseman's head, is the latest example of this incongruity. Beauchemin did not get up and was met by a trainer when the play stopped. He appeared woozy while trying to stand on his skates and was escorted straight to the locker room. The result? A mere two-minute minor penalty -- the least amount of discipline the referees on ice could have issued. Surely, there would be more supplemental discipline once somebody in the front office could properly analyze the replay, right? Chicago Tribune beat writer, Chris Kuc, reports this won't be the case:
#Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw will not face supplemental discipline for hit on Avs' Francois Beauchemin. Source said, "it was a close one."— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) December 16, 2015
This is beginning to get comical. We've seen two Avalanche players suspended for hard hits this season, Tyson Barrie for his high check on Simon Depres (Video) and Gabriel Landeskog for his hit on Brad Marchand (Video). Barrie was suspended three games by the league, Landeskog two. The consensus around these parts was pretty clear: the punishments were severe -- given the lack of previous discipline received by the players -- but ultimately, the players need to be protected. Tough pills to swallow, but the right calls.
But now, considering the inaction against Shaw, one can't but feel outraged the same standards aren't being applied to other teams. The video below is a blatant blow to the head, much in the same vein as the two that warranted suspensions, and perhaps even more egregious. Both Avalanche infractions initially impacted the opponents' shoulder and followed through toward the head. This penalty was a clear, unobstructed, targeting of the head -- a blow that caused a game-ending (if not more severe) head injury. What excuse is there not to bring further discipline? The NHL has already created the standard; now it must be enforced. It shouldn't matter if the player wears the jersey of the Stanley Cup champion or the last place Columbus Blue Jackets.
Is this play not what the NHL is trying to eliminate?