Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Was Tootoo Suspended 2 Games for Lucic Hit on Miller?

Those reading this headline to the blog probably think I have lost my mind, but after the NHL today suspended Nashville Jordin Tootoo two games for the collision he had with Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller in Saturday night's contest, the question bears asking.

The play itself has drawn out arguments on both sides: Sabres fans vehemently contend that Tootoo "ran" Miller; Nashville fans say that Tootoo could not help the collision when, after beating Sabres D man Christian Ehrhoff, he was pushed just enough to knock him off stride and force him into Miller.

That debate is never going to be settled, and each side can argue a valid point or points about about the play.

The problem for League disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is the meting out of justice to Tootoo for just such a play that is open to those arguments when he failed to do so when Miller was legitimately run by Boston's Milan Lucic two weeks ago on a play that had absolutely no gray area.

Lucic demolished Miller on the play, hurting his back and potentially giving him a concussion in the process. Tootoo appeared to attempt to avoid Miller by leaping over him and mitigating much of the contact (he failed, but the attempt was there).

Helpful tip: turn off your speakers so you don't have to listen to the Buffalo announcers

And this is where it gets dicey for Shanahan and the League.

If the punishment to Tootoo was to make up call for the one you missed earlier, then this is an egregious miscarriage of the responsibility that Shanahan has to the players and the integrity of the game.

The appearance of any partiality or favoritism toward a player or a team undermines any credibility that Shanahan- and by extension,  the League- has. That credibility and impartiality must be paramount in the the administration of discipline and enforcement of the rules, and any appearance otherwise is detrimental to the League, its players, and its fans.

I don't blame Lindy Ruff for being incensed at the play, or Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad and every Sabre on the ice going after Tootoo. I would want the Predators to respond the same way if that type of collision occurred with  Pekka Rinne. Don't tell me, however, that this hit was anything like the hit that Miller received from Lucic.

It wasn't.

And for Shanahan to say that Lucic's hit was a hockey play and this one wasn't is disingenuous at best.

So while I can disagree with the assessment that Tootoo was not steered by Ehrhoff toward Miller and with the suspension, I am making that judgement through Predator colored glasses, just as the Buffalo fans think that this hit was a heinous attack on their goaltender are viewing the play through their Sabres glasses.

The players and fans of the NHL hope that Shanahan's vision is 20/20.

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