It's been a long time since a Brendan Shanahan-issued suspension felt like an attention getter. Safe to say that the five-game ban he handed to Cody McLeod tonight effectively ended that streak.
The Colorado forward was sentenced to civvies today for a vicious hit from behind that left Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall with a slight concussion.
There were a lot of moving parts to this case that made it worth watching, including its timing in relation to two other high-profile incidents: a story Saturday about a crackdown on violence in the KHL and Kronwall's surprising decision to publicly assume some of the blame for the collision.
"First of all, anytime you get hit like that you got to look at what you could have done differently," Kronwall told mlive.com's Ansar Khan. "I know I could have done a lot of things differently. I shouldn't have put myself in that spot in the first place. He's coming in with a lot of speed, but I did turn the last second. It goes fast out there. It's easy to go back and look at it in slow-motion and be very smart about things, but it's hockey, everything is high-paced, it goes fast out there. Guys are going to make some bad decisions sometimes."
While that may be true, it didn't make Shanahan's job any easier. But rather than avoid the admission, he addressed Kronwall's thinking in the league's suspension video.
"With the speed of today's game, there often are occasions where a player changing direction, or turning his back just prior to, or simultaneous with, an oncoming check may absolve a checker from responsibility," he said. "It certainly is a noticeable aspect of the play and we have considered it. However, although Kronwall might have put himself in a more vulnerable position, the key to this play is that we are convinced that McLeod has time to avoid or minimize checking Kronwall from behind...McLeod actually makes an adjustment to his own path and is responsible for the violent collision that results."
He's right, of course. And while McLeod has never been fined or suspended during his seven-season career, there shouldn't be a first-time offender's discount for a play this stupid. I haven't liked many of Shanny's calls this year, but this one strikes a tone of intolerance for this kind of cheap shot. And if this becomes the new baseline for hits from behind, it won't bother me that a career punk like Max Lapierre got the same penalty for an even worse hit just last week. It's time to look forward on these sentences, not back.