Mon 23 Apr 2012
I suppose that NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan’s arms were too sore from patting himself on the back for imposing a 25-game suspension to Raffi Torres for him to issue a disciplinary hearing for Chris Neil’s hit on Brian Boyle during Game 5.
There really is no other reason for Neil not to face some disciplinary action because his hit on Boyle met the three basic points that Shanahan has used when suspending players this season – including the Rangers very own Carl Hagelin.
Despite what Neil apologists have written on the Internet, he did target Boyle’s head as the primary point of contact, the hit is delivered from Boyle’s blindside, and most damaging is the player was injured as a result of the hit.
While we can’t always determine a player’s mindset in terms on intent (although Shanahan did in reference to the Hagelin hit), if you think Neil wasn’t targeting Boyle then do I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It is no bit of irony that Neil drops the hammer on the same player that Matt Carkner jumped at the start of Game 2 as retaliation for Boyle’s jabs at Erik Karlsson.
Some have said that the fast-paced nature of the game at that point would not lend itself to Neil being able to zero in on Boyle – despite the fact that at 6-foot-7 he is the tallest player on the ice who was not on the Senators bench dressed as the backup goaltender (Ben Bishop).
Neil’s defenders point out that the Ottawa tough guy has never been suspended for any on-ice transgression. Well, prior to his hit on Daniel Alfredsson, neither had Hagelin. While we are it, neither has Sean Avery. How many games do you think Avery gets if he delivers the same hit to Kyle Turris?
For his part, Neil claims his hit was legal – much like he did back in February 2003 when he knocked the Buffalo Sabres co-captain Chris Drury out of game. Here is how Buffalo Coach described the play.
“It was a predator-type of hit where Chris was vulnerable,” Ruff told CBC sports. “Neil went out of his way to deliver a blow to Chris’ head.
“It was a deliberate attempt to put somebody out.”
Drury suffered a concussion and missed four games, to go along with a 20-stitch cut to his forehead that occurred when his head hit the ice.
So before everyone points out that Neil has never been “suspended” for this type of play, he has been “involved” in it. Writers might want to ask Martin Biron about it because he was one of three players (teammate Andrew Peters and Ottawa goalie Ray Emery were the others) who were suspended as a result of the ensuing brawl that saw 110 PIMs handed out.
Fortunately for the Rangers, they have a history of dealing with concussions. The last thing any competent organization would want to do is force a concussed player to fly after suffering his injury and then let the player on the ice less than 48 hours after suffering what is termed as a concussion.
You have to give Shanahan credit for one thing; he could have had a sham “hearing” where he pointed his finger at Neil while making the Ottawa winger promise never to do it again.
If he wanted to truly heartless, he could have nailed Neil with one of his patented $2,500 fines. Oops, I forgot, those are saved for superstar defensemen who attempt to inject a little WWE action into the NHL.
I know there are some who are saying that as a Rangers blogger I am biased. To those people I say you might be right. That is why I am asking for some consistency when it comes to disciplinary actions. Rangers Coach John Tortorella was correct when he called the play “a dangerous, dangerous, cheap hit”, but he was way off base when he compared it to the one Torres delivered to Marian Hossa. To call for, or even expect, a 25-game suspension is ludicrous.
With that said, there are others who have no horse in this race who are just as perplexed that Neil escaped any disciplinary actions. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star is one writer who finds Shanny’s actions, or lack thereof, quite puzzling.
“It seems unthinkable, given all the circumstances, that Shanahan would now, after laying down the law so heavily on Torres, permit Neil to walk away unpunished for his head shot on Boyle, a hit that certainly appeared to break Rule 48. Consistency is what hockey fans seem to want, and there can be no consistency when one player – a multiple offender – is getting 25 games for a head shot while another gets nothing for a head shot of his own. Yes, Neil would at least in theory be a first time offender; then again, so was Hagelin,” Cox wrote on April 22, 2012.
“Any reasonable person would suggest Neil should at least get one game; reports that Boyle’s head was not the principle point of contact are laughable.”
As to addressing the old adage that Boyle needed to keep his head, Cox provides a telling quote from a former NHL player.
“Not sure how we teach our players to look at the net, shoot the puck and then check out the danger at 45, 90 and 180 degrees in one motion,” Cox quotes a disgusted former NHLer this morning. “We cannot just say the game is hard and concussions happen. It’s not right.”
As we look ahead to Game 6, Alfredsson and Neil will hailed as conquering heroes at the Scotiabank Place while Hagelin will sure to draw the boos usually reserved for Sidney Crosby at Madison Square Garden.
While Ranger fans hope that Hagelin’s return to the lineup is the tonic for the offensive malaise that his hit Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, it is my hope that Hagelin makes it through the game in one piece.
With Steve Kozari and Tim Peel set as the referees, it might be a long night for the Blueshirt faithful.
We’ve already witnessed Ottawa’s thirst for frontier justice when Carkner jumped Boyle in Game 2 and then again with Neil’s predatory hit on Boyle in Game 5. Is there any Ranger fan out there who does not believe for one second that one of those knuckle-dragging guttersnipe Senators (i.e. Neil, Carkner or Zenon Konopka) aren’t going to take runs at Hagelin?
And when they do, you can bet that Shanahan will have their back much like he had Neil’s following Saturday night’s game.
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