I have a few things to say about the Pacioretty ruling so I’ll lead with Leblanc. Its an interesting move to call up a player only 14 games into his professional career, and yet the Montreal Canadiens don’t have a whole lot of options. Losing their best offensive player hurts. There is no way to replace Pacioretty in the line up. Leblanc has been arguably the best forward on a very bad, last place Bulldogs team this season. When Brian Willsie is your leading scorer, you’ve got problems. Leblanc started the season on the shelf with a shoulder injury and as such missed the first five games of the season. In the 14 games since his return Leblanc has racked up 10 points (4G, 6A) for a solid start to his professional career. My one and only hope for Leblanc is that in his time with the Canadiens we see him used on a scoring line and not the 4th line where he will be forced to play a style he is entirely uncomfortable with. A third line of Moen, Leblanc and Eller would be fantastic.
Ok now on to the Pacioretty ruling. Let me say this first – I have no problem with Max Pacioretty being suspended for 3 games. In today’s climate, a hit to the head is a suspendable offence, and as such Pacioretty should rightly be suspended. Though he keeps his arms at his side, and Letang’s head is lowered because of his shooting motion on the play, Shanahan ruled as we all hoped he would going into this season – that a play which was reckless – regardless of intent – would warrant a suspension.
What is sad about Shanahan’s decision is that is becoming increasingly clear that although there is a new sheriff in town, he’s using the old guard’s logic to come to his decision. Shanahan seems hell bent on making each decision based on some idea that he will be able to correctly interpret each subtle movement on the ice to decide intent.
When Ryan Malone nailed Chris Campoli it was declared that Campoli had lowered his head which led to his injury. No suspension was awarded, and a reckless hit went un-punished.
Fast-forward to Saturday night and we see Pacioretty cream Letang who’s head is in a lowered position due to his shot attempt. We see that in both of these plays the injured player attempts to play the puck just prior to contact. So how is it possible that one of these plays was reasoned to be a result of the victim’s desision to play the puck, and the other a reckless hit?
The answer lies in the person who is judging the hit. In one case Shanahan felt compelled to give Malone the benefit of the doubt, and in Pacioretty’s case he did not. Its exactly the same problem that we faced during Colin Campbell’s regime. Its exactly what we hoped would change with a man who was purportedly less likely to play dictator, and more likely to follow due process. And yet we see that a reckless play by Milan Lucic goes unpunished, the benefit of the doubt given to a player who says he couldn’t react fast enough to not hit an all star goalie, and yet extends both of his arms fully stretched at the point of impact.
I want to be emphatically clear about what I’m saying here: all three of these hits deserved to be punished. I’m in no way arguing that Pacioretty should have escaped punishment for his hit.
What I am saying is that as long as perception by an interested party is the largest determining factor to the length of a suspension in these types of hits, we are going to continue to suffer through ridiculous decisions that have no equity in application. Pacioretty will now be viewed as a repeat offender should he be involved in another situation such as this. Malone will not. Lucic, hilariously, will not.
Shanahan has completely undermined his own credibility through a quarter of the season. The fact that you can see plays with similar outcomes with entirely different results indicates that he’s basing his decisions on his presumption of intent, which means those players and teams that he admires will get the benefit of the doubt, and those who do not hold esteem will be punished to the letter of the law.