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Tootoo’s Suspension May Be Lame, But Fistric’s Is Atrocious

12/07/11
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Sabres fans may be up in arms over Jordin Tootoo’s hit on Ryan Miller (in his first game back from injury, no less) only earning him two games, but think of how bats**t insane Islanders fans must be right now over Mark Fistric leaping at Nino Niederreiter’s head only got him three.

While Tootoo’s hit on Miller certainly could’ve warranted a five game sit-down for the long-time Nashville ball of hate, but given the precedent set by Shanahan in not suspending Lucic for a more egregious play , it makes a sort of twisted sense that Tootoo is only sitting for two games. Shanahan could have sent a message, much like the NFL has with how it protects quarterbacks, and suspended Tootoo for 8 games or more, but he foolishly backed himself into a corner already. By handing out a slap on the wrist, he does however have the freedom to issue ever-increasing suspensions and could get it right with the next incident or two.

When Fistric drilled Niederreiter in the skull after leaving his feet, Shanahan had no precedent to worry about preserving and could have sent a crushing message in line with his position as head of player safety – ie, the guy who overseas people not getting their heads smashed in anymore and punishing the guys who do it. With the NHL’s newfound stance against head shots of any kind, Shanahan could have levelled a 15 game suspension at the latest offender to effectively tell the rest of the league, “No more f**king head shots, you a**holes”. Instead he totally missed the mark and handed out another slap on the wrist, this time for a much more dangerous play than Tootoo’s hit on Miller.

Black & Blue & Gold columnist Alex Bauer has been irate over the suspensions, making it known that the league should (and still could) have appointed someone who has real experience with and cares about player safety issues. Guys like Pat LaFontaine or Eric Lindros are his favorite candidates and, while I tend to agree that they’d be better suited for the role than a man whose career was punctuated by punching the crap out of other guys (Shanahan), I think the man needs to be given more than 25% of his first season on the job to sort things out. If things keep trending toward weaker suspensions, though, the NHL ought to look at who might be a better fit for the job.

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