October 1, 2013

NHL sets a bad precedent before season even starts

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

The season hasn’t even started and the NHL is already off the rails. How else can you explain last week’s brawl between the Maple Leafs and Sabres that resulted in a 10-game suspension for a guy jumping off the bench and just three games for a guy taking two hard, two-handed slashes at an opponent?

Brendan Shanahan, usually a good arbiter of punishments, completely dropped the ball here.

While it’s understood that it’s an automatic 10-game ban for leaving the bench during a fight, why was David Clarkson still allowed to play the remaining pre-season games? Should that not have been covered by the ban?

And how does Phil Kessel get just three pre-season games for taking those violent whacks at Buffalo tough guy John Scott – who escaped scot-free after initiating the whole fracas?

If anything, the punishments should have been slightly reversed. Kessel should be serving his suspension during the regular-season while Clarkson’s 10 games should have covered the final three exhibitions.

But instead, Shanahan and the league took the stance that Kessel didn’t deserve any real punishment for intentionally trying to injure someone – a horrible precedent to set.

If you’re going to allow fighting in your league, you’re going to have these goons go after skill guys like Kessel and you can’t allow them to use their sticks as a weapon. I seriously hope that no kid watching that terrible incident got it into their head that it’s OK to swing your stick wildly under any circumstance, because if that happens even once because of this, there will be blood on the hands of Kessel, Shanahan and the NHL.

As for the coming campaign, which the league is gracious enough to start on time and play a full schedule this season, let’s get to some predictions.

Playoff teams

Metropolitan: Boston, Detroit, Toronto.

Atlantic: Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Washington.

Central: Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota.

Pacific: Los Angeles, Vancouver, Edmonton.

East wild cards: Ottawa, Philadelphia.

West wild cards: San Jose, Columbus.

Olympic gold medal: Sweden over Russia.

Canada’s Olympic finish: Bronze.

Surprise teams: Edmonton, Columbus .

Disappointments: Anaheim, New Jersey, Winnipeg.

Worst team: Calgary Flames.

Hart trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT

Art Ross: Sidney Crosby, PIT

Norris: Zdeno Chara, BOS

Vezina: Jonathan Quick, LA

Rocket Richard: Steven Stamkos, TB

Calder: Nathan MacKinnon, COL

Eastern conference final: Pittsburgh over Boston.

Western conference final: Los Angeles over St. Louis.

Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh over Los Angeles.

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