What happened back on Saturday, November 12th between Bruins power forward Milan Lucic and Sabres netminder Ryan Miller sparked controversy across hockey nation.
A barreling Lucic skated into Buffalo's zone to play the puck. Simultaneously, Ryan Miller left his crease to do the same --
We all saw the highlights. We all know Milan Lucic recorded a minor penalty for "charging", which he served in the sin bin.
The National Hockey League's head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan decided against any suspension or fine to be handed to Lucic which created an uproar. Apparently many ciphered the whole ball of wax as an "Open Season" on goaltenders in this league. Shanahan wanted to make it clear that that is NOT the case --
"[It is] irresponsible to suggest that it's open season [on goalies]," Shanahan said at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction, according to TSN. "I will have this warning for players: It's not. If you run a goalie, you're going to find yourself in the same situation that Lucic was today, you're going to have to explain yourself and if you don't explain it sufficiently, and I don't buy it, you're going to be suspended."
Our league's disciplinarian went on to ensure us that he makes his decisions based off of the rulebook and will not make any revisions because of a rare occurrence such as this.
In Section 6, Rule 42 of the NHL Rulebook it clearly states --
A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.
Shanahan felt Lucic made a valid argument for himself at their scheduled hearing. According to Shanahan, Lucic "made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact," and the play was deemed incidental. Especially since Miller picked himself up and went back to playing without seeming like he was injured.
Yes, injury does play a factor in any supplemental disciplinary decisions. I know Miller winded up suffering a concussion from the incident, but he DID go on playing after the hit.
Lucic served the 2-minute minor penalty. No suspension was given. Case closed.
This passing Saturday, December 3rd, the Nashville Predators faced the Buffalo Sabres. Late in the 2nd period, Jordin Tootoo skated into Ryan Miller's crease and lunged high on to the Sabre goaltender.
Tootoo was then penalized for charging the goalie, given a game misconduct, and further suspended for two games. Per Brendan Shanahan's explanation --
Shanahan notes that though there was contact between Tootoo and the defending Christian Ehrhoff, it wasn't enough to re-direct Tootoo's path into Miller's crease. Therefore "the onus is on Tootoo to avoid or at least minimize contact."
Also, please take into account that Shanahan says "the goaltender must feel protected in his crease."
And though Tootoo may have left his skates to avoid Miller, (like Shanahan says) it did more harm than good. It forced the blunt force of Tootoo's contact to Miller's head and neck area which is exactly what's being called into question here.
Jordin is lucky to receive only a two-game suspension. Had he been deemed a "repeat offender", Jordin could have faced a much longer suspension.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement defines a repeat offender as a player with "second, or more incidents, requiring a game suspension" on his resume.
"But Tootoo's been suspended and fined in his past," you say.
Truth. However, I direct you to Article 18 of the CBA --
Status as a "first" or "repeat" offender shall be re-determined every eighteen (18) months, on a rolling basis, i.e., where a Player does not have another suspension for eighteen (18) months, his next suspension will be treated as a "first" offense.
Yadda yadda yadda yadda holy shit.....yadda yadda.
What's the reason for this article?
Well, too many people are comparing the two hits on Ryan Miller when in actuality they're very much different. See, people got pissed off at Milan Lucic for turning Buffalo's twinesitter into an icy bowling pin. Then they became enraged once they learned Lucic received absolutely no supplementary discipline from the league's Ass Spanker.
And now that Miller has gotten hit for the second time and Tootoo was suspended but NOT Lucic, fans have begun believing the league has a hidden love for the Boston Bruins.
Nay, my friends. Shanahan's just a stickler for detail.
I believe the difference between the two charging penalties has a lot to do with Miller leaving his crease to play the puck the first time, as opposed to getting raped in his own paint the second time. And make whatever argument you want against Lucic, he didn't extend any part of his body towards Miller's head and neck. Tootoo turned into a rocket and connected directly with Ryan's cranium at crashing speed.
Both incidents were penalties, without question. Both were served. One was suspension worthy, and Brendan Shanahan chose wisely. I hate the Killer B's as much as everyone else, but if you can manage to let that hate-built fog settle and face facts, you'll notice the small (yet major) differences between the two occurrences.
A goaltender "must feel protected in his crease."
Yes, he should feel protected at all times no matter where he is on the ice. The league only has so many netminders (80). Therefore the league should treat them with more concern than any skater. I thoroughly agree.
But when you leave your crease to play a puck, accidents happen. Keyword; "Accidents". There was no trauma to Miller's head during the initial contact with Lucic, nor was Lucic's intent to injure Miller. It was unfortunate Miller's head met the ice after the contact with Lucic, but that's just because hockey's a rough & tumble sport.
....unless, of course, some fans prefer the game is played on a moon bounce?