It shouldn’t be surprising that an agent fired back in lieu of Brendan Shanahan and the league suspending players faster than you can say “Dale Hunter.” In fact, it shouldn’t be surprising that Allan Walsh is the agent who is publically stirring the pot because his client was so viciously wronged by the long arm of Shanahan’s law. It is, however, surprising that it took a full five days into the regular season for an agent to publically question Shanahan’s new form of swift justice. It’s not just a new standard being set—its games being lost, and money being lost.
How this wasn’t addressed in the preseason when the league was dropping the hammer is a miracle in itself.
It’s an agent’s job to stand up for his client at all times. When a player is looking for a contract extension, it’s the agent’s job to get him the best contract possible. When a player does something dumb on the ice, we can expect an agent to publically stand behind their client. I get it—it’s the nature of the beast and it comes with the territory.
Then again, there’s a proper avenue to vent perceived slights directed at any clients. When Allan Walsh publically went after Brendan Shanahan in the wake of Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s two-game suspension, it struck a chord with some people around the league. It certainly did for me.
For the first time in recent memory, the NHL has set out a clear mandate to the players around the league. Reckless plays that can cause serious injury to opponents have no place in the game of hockey and will be severely punished. It’s so simple: yet even this has now been met with resistance.
“What message is Brendan Shanahan sending with this unwarranted suspension? All perennial Lady Byng candidates should now be on notice that when an opponent high sticks himself in the mouth, he can expect a minimum suspension of 2 regular season NHL games. This result is a shameful farce for the League.
“All in all, these 20 minute disciplinary hearings are nothing more than kangaroo courts. More League effort goes into writing scripts and producing slick video’s than in getting to the real facts of what occurred on the ice. It’s an inherent conflict of interest for an employee of the NHL to be conducting these hearings and imposing suspensions on players. It’s time for a neutral 3rd party not associated with the league or the players to take over supplementary discipline as this system clearly does not work.” –Allan Walsh (agent for Pierre Marc Bouchard)
Was the suspension warranted? People in Columbus will say yes and people in Minnesota will probably say no. There’s a shocker: fans take whichever side is most convenient for “their” team. Here’s the kicker: it doesn’t even matter.
The league has done a very good job of setting the bar extremely high in order to protect NHL players for the first time in league history. Over the last few years with Colin Campbell and the semi-daily Wheel of Justice fiascos; all people want is some consistency. Players in every sport want consistency from officials. Organizations want consistency. Most importantly, fans, bloggers, and media have been vocal in their desire for transparent consistency. So now that we have it, should we even hesitate when an agent (who is known for making waves) tries to make waves to save his player when Shanahan’s hammer comes down?
Make no mistake: Walsh isn’t looking out for the best interests of the game. He’s not afraid that continued suspensions will turn the NHL into a non-checking league. No—he’s concerned that his client is going to lose money for missing two games. He and Bouchard will appeal the suspension because that’s their right and they wish to exercise their right. But here’s the question: what is he going to say? The two-handed slash away from the puck that accidently hit the opponent in the face is a “hockey play?”
The reason that he—and others—have a problem with this particular suspension is because it looks different than the other suspensions handed down lately. Up until now, Shanahan’s suspensions have been isolated to dangerous boarding plays or shots to the head. Those would be Rule 41.1 and Rule 48 for rule followers playing along at home.
Yet still, the suspension is consistent with all of the other harsh punishments that have been levied this season. This is a suspension that harshly penalizes a player for a reckless play that caused an injury to an opponent. Bouchard has no history of recklessly hitting players in the face with his stick; but is that really justification for him not to be punished this time?
It’s true that Shanahan’s suspensions have been more severe than any other period in hockey’s history. Is that a bad thing? Sure, Bouchard and Walsh have a problem with it this time because they are feeling the wrath. Then there were the rumors that GMs around the league were upset with the unforgiving penalties. If only that were true.
“I will say unequivocally and for the record that no one at the league office has had any conversation with Brendan about changing the standard he is applying. Nor do we believe that he has or will ‘back off,’ as is being suggested in the media. One thing that both the clubs and players have asked for over time is consistency in decision-making. Brendan has applied a consistent standard to this point and I have no doubt that he will continue to apply a consistent standard going forward.” –Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (via LA Times)
Here’s the deal: all we want is consistency. GMs want the players they build their teams around to be protected. Owners want their assets to be protected. Players want to know what the rules and how they’re going to be called over the long-run. So why is there an argument when we have a situation when all of these interests converge and the league harshly punishes a player?
Walsh is doing his job as he protects the isolated interests of his individual client. But for everyone else? This is the consistency we asked for.