NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan struck again on Monday afternoon, handing Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux a one game suspension for a late hit to the head of Dainius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils.
At the time of the incident Giroux was only called for a minor penalty for an illegal head check, possibly because Zubrus was not injured on the hit.
“I’m not a dirty player,” Giroux said after Sunday night’s 4-2 loss in Newark. “I don’t want to hit guys in the head. I was just trying to finish my hit there.”
The suspension to Giroux – a first time offender – once again brings into question the NHL’s consistency when it comes to disciplinary action. There is no doubt that it was a reckless hit and could have seriously injured Zubrus, despite Giroux’s claims that he was simply trying to finish his hit. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of rhyme or reason as to how the final verdict is reached.
One week Shea Weber is only fined for bashing Henrik Zetterberg’s face against the boards and the next Raffi Torres is suspended 25 games for a hit to the head on Mike Smith.
“We feel this reckless picking of the head rises to the level of supplemental discipline,” Shanahan said. “We have taken into consideration that though he was shaken up, Zubrus returned to the game and finished it.”
It seemed highly unlikely that the NHL would ban Giroux for any time period, simply based on the fact that he is one of the league’s premier superstars for whom fans pay good money to see during the spring months. It simply wasn’t suspension-worthy, given the qualifications Shanahan has abided by throughout the season. But what’s done is done and for the Flyers, the suspension couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time.
Philadelphia now trails the Devils 3-1 in their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series and is facing elimination. The Flyers simply are not playing to their strengths. It’s clear they are a deep scoring team that can not only out-skate, but out-hit almost any team in the league. Instead, they’re playing right into the Devils’ scheme, which has them looking like the New Jersey Devils of the late 1990s.
If the Flyers can win on Tuesday night and get Giroux back, anything can happen as the series would then head back to Newark. It certainly won’t be easy though.
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