Despite a litany of suspensions in the pre-season, the returns on new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan have been positive. But what do the players involved in his crackdown think? Buffalo’s Brad Boyes was dinged two games for a headshot on Toronto’s Joe Colborne, but even the Sabres sniper can’t argue with ‘The Shanahammer.’
“I agree with it, even though mine was a tough one,” Boyes said. “I did make contact with the guy’s head. They’re trying to get that out of the game and I have no problem with that. I’m in favor of getting rid of those plays that not only hurt guys on the ice, but really affect them off the ice as well. He’s sending a message that guys can’t run around being stupid out there. It’s a matter of life off the ice now, too.”
Granted, missing out on two exhibition games isn’t exactly life in Sing Sing and with the Sabres travelling to Europe to kick off the regular season, a longer suspension could have been a real bummer. But in Shanahan’s public statement on the hit, he noted Boyes had never been in trouble with the league before, something that helped the right winger’s case. The fact Shanahan has used videos to clarify his decisions has also been seen as a positive.
“That’s the way he can explain to everyone what his thinking was as opposed to just handing out a memo,” Boyes said. “I think it’s good.”
Teammate Ryan Miller also likes the videos, noting different players learn in different ways and the spots are an effective way of reaching all of them. As a former member of the NHL’s competition committee, Miller has been involved in shaping the NHL’s philosophies in recent years and has a strong opinion on what ails the game.
“It’s a small group of guys making it difficult for the rest of us,” he said. “We’re trying to get that culture out where it’s OK to be a little rat on the ice and not have to be accountable for it. No one has to fight now if they don’t want to and I think some guys hide behind that. So they go out and try to hurt guys and play a game I don’t think our fans want to see.”
While Shanahan has said publicly that he will examine the role of fighting in the game, he made no indication a ban was imminent. The fact his last NHL game came during the 2008-09 season means he knows post-lockout hockey and what it’s like to be on the ice in this era, something previous disciplinarian Colin Campbell (who played in the 1970s and ’80s) did not have.
“It’s a different face,” Boyes said. “He’s someone who played the game for a long time and is very knowledgeable in playing a gritty style, so in certain situations he can feel for a guy.”
All in all, Boyes seems upbeat about the process that led to his minor upbraiding, something that bodes well for Shanahan’s new tenure.
“He was really good, by the book,” Boyes said. “You could tell that he was trying to do things right and be fair, not judgmental. He wasn’t picking sides as a player or management. He did a real good job.”
The big question now is whether the suspensions will continue into the regular season and actually change behavior.