Skating on Shaky Ice

The NHL playoffs have been nothing short of entertaining thus far. Too bad it’s for almost all of the wrong reasons.

The social media-sphere is in an uproar due to the NHL Player Safety Department and its recent lack of consistency. Blown calls, unfair suspensions and bogus fines have become commonplace in the league, and thousands of people — including fans, analysts, coaches, writers and players — have started to become more vocal about these issues.

Ranger fans are all too familiar with how badly things have spiraled out of control, seeing as it more or less started with them. It may have been a couple of weeks ago now, but the Orpik knee incident was the first sign of how bad things have become. The Penguins’ star defenseman Brooks Orpik knee’d Derek Stepan, causing the latter injury. It isn’t totally clear, but if you look closely enough you see that Orpik’s skate turns out and there’s no reason why it should have.

I can’t even begin to tell you how livid I was when I saw the play. I had literally just gotten home for Easter, turned on the TV with my folks and bam, Stepan was on the ice.

I thought there would definitely be some punishment for Orpik, my original guess being a three-game suspension. But there was nothing. There wasn’t even a hearing. I was embarrassed with the league, because it only further solidified the Penguin protection theory.

And I know all of you out there  didn’t think it could get any worse. Oh yes it could, apparently.

Let’s talk about Carl Hagelin.

Here’s a player who in his first year in the NHL has barely placed a skate out of line and would probably need Mike Rupp to point him toward the direction of the penalty box, that’s how little he’s been there. How did he warrant a three-game suspension?

I’m not saying he should have been exempt from hearings or a fine or suspension, because he shouldn’t have been. The fact is you can’t be careless about what you do, and if you elbow someone and seriously injure them (Daniel Alfredsson did suffer from a concussion, keeping him out of game three of the series), there should be consequences.

However, this was inconsistent and unfair and displays some serious problems in the NHL right now. It’s clear certain players are given more leeway than others, and that NHL Player Safety has become a joke.

This is more disappointing than aggravating. When Brendan Shanahan first came in, everyone thought things would get better. Here was a guy who had been a successful and honest player for many years in the NHL. He is someone who understands what players go through and what goes on in their heads. At least, he was supposed to.

I’m embarrassed to remember how fond I was of him, especially when he was a Ranger. He knows that delivering pain and causing concussions is not part of the Rangers’ organization. He openly stated he doesn’t believe Hagelin is that kind of player and he’s a “good” kid. Alfredsson said he thinks it was just the intensity of the playoffs.

So how is it he got three games when players like Shea Weber and James Neal get a mere $2,500 fine and one game respectively?

Weber grabbed Henrik Zetterberg by the neck and bashed his head into the glass. Neal attacked both Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux out of nowhere. Hagelin made a mistake, but the difference is that Hagelin isn’t a star, and the player he attacked ended up hurt. Things like that can’t affect punishment.

Discipline should be based on intent. Players like Orpik and Weber have histories of acting like neanderthals. However, they’re both stars, and Neal has made a name for himself this season. They get to stay around because they’re such important keys, not only in their respective markets, but in the NHL as a whole.

I understand the importance of star players and making smaller markets grow, especially Nashville. However, safety needs to be taken more seriously and it certainly can’t be as biased as it is now. It has to start getting consistent, or else the fans who have been there won’t stick around much longer.