In the National Hockey League, you might be suspended for getting your elbow up a bit too high, but not if you deliberately jab your opponent in the groin, apparently. That’s what David Legwand did to Evgeni Malkin on Thursday, and he escaped with a mere $5000 fine. James Neal crosschecked Luke Glendening in the head that same game and received an identical slap on the wrist.
It’s never quite clear what punishment league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will eventually settle on, and despite the increased transparency of the Shanaban era, often it seems like decisions are made with the aid of a wheel. Here’s the top 10 longest Shanabans of the 2013-14 regular season.
(Note: there have been eight three-game suspensions this year, so I went with my two “favorites.”)
10. Zack Kassian – 3 games for boarding (March 7, 2014)
At 23, and with fewer than 150 NHL games under his belt, Kassian is well-established as one of the league’s dirtiest players. This boarding incident against Dallas’s Brenden Dillon is typical of Kassian’s carelessness. If you rearrange the letters in his last name, you can spell reckless.
9. Nazem Kadri – 3 games for goaltender interference (Nov. 14, 2013)
As one of the league’s best at drawing penalties, Kadri has developed a reputation for his love of dramatization. Crashing the net against Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, though, Kadri failed to disguise his intentions as he crashed through the crease and followed through on contact.
T-4. Deryk Engelland – 5 games for a hit to the head (Dec. 18, 2013)
Already having been suspended three games in 2011 for an illegal hit to the head, Engelland committed the same offense in December against Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader. Engelland guaranteed himself a lengthy suspension by his distinct upward follow-through, and the subsequent two weeks Abdelkader missed after the incident.
T-4. James Neal – 5 games for kneeing (Dec. 9, 2013)
This one upset a lot of folks. First, because it led to the No. 1 entry on this list and was given one-third the punishment, and many argued that Neal’s knee on Brad Marchand was committed with far more malice than Shawn Thornton’s sucker-punch on Brooks Orpik. Adding to the difficulty for Shanahan to determine a suitable punishment was the lack of comparables — most suspensions fall into one of a few common categories, one of which isn’t kneeing to the head. Maybe Shanny used the Wheel for this one.
T-4. Ryan Garbutt – 5 games for charging (Oct. 23, 2013)
When Garbutt left the penalty box and saw Dustin Penner skating into the middle with his head down, he got a little too excited. ‘I’m gonna freaking crush this guy,’ Garbutt probably thought. But he spoiled his chance to make a legal hit when he leapt before contact, hitting the 6-foot-4 Penner in the head.
T-4. Cody McLeod – 5 games for boarding (Oct. 21, 2013)
Do you think McLeod’s decision to drive through Niklas Kronwall had anything to do with the Swedish D-man’s history of mangling players with monstrous hits?
T-4. Max Lapierre – 5 games for boarding (Oct. 18, 2013)
Like many reading this, I’m not a fan of Max Lapierre. However, he was a bit unlucky on this hit on Dan Boyle, as the defenseman stumbled during his turn, and his impact with the dasher board resulted in him leaving the ice on a stretcher. But as Shanahan explains in the suspension video, the hitter bears responsibility for the resulting impact with the boards on a hit from behind.
3. John Scott – 7 games for a hit to the head (Oct. 23, 2013)
When Scott leveled Boston’s Loui Eriksson with a hit to the head, we knew the resulting suspension would be steep. Despite never being suspended previously, Scott carries a reputation for goonery unmatched by few of his peers. When a fourth-liner who averages 6:33 a night decks a skilled player who is six inches shorter (practically everyone is at least six inches shorter than Scott, but still), it screams suspension. The lesson: if you’re going to hit someone in the head, make sure you’re not regarded as a “pure goon” if you want fair supplemental discipline.
2. Patrick Kaleta – 10 games for a hit to the head (Oct. 15, 2013)
Though he’s No.1 on my list of the NHL’s Most Punchable Faces, Kaleta’s 10-gamer only earns him No. 2 on this list. It was barely a week into the regular season and Kaleta was eager to take someone’s head off. From the Sabres logo at center ice, Kaleta spotted Jack Johnson and made his way to the Blue Jackets defenseman, exploding violently on contact. Kaleta’s lengthy suspension history, along with his reputation as a “hit to hurt” player, made him the first player of 2013-14 to earn a double-digit suspension. Kaleta tore his ACL in November and hasn’t played since the night of the Johnson hit.
1. Shawn Thornton – 15 games for punching an unsuspecting opponent (Dec. 14, 2013)
Days before his repugnant sucker-punch on Penguins D-man Brooks Orpik, Thornton told ESPN’s Katie Strang, “People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable, I suppose, in some instances.” Well, to be fair, he did say “in some instances.” This was not one of them.