Leading up to the Vancouver Canucks game against the Islanders late Monday, all of Tuesday and even after the tilt there has been this discussion of whether Michael Grabner deserved that two-game suspension for hitting Nathan Gerbe of the Hurricanes Saturday night.
And like all of these suspensions or non-suspensions, particularly the long ones, there was the usual protest from some, approval by others and outrage among yet others who believe the suspension should have been longer.
It was exactly the same discussion that took place when Alex Edler’s elbow hit the head of Tomas Hertl leading to his recent three-game suspension. And it’s pretty much the same harangue that takes place every time there is such an incident, with people jumping up and down depending upon where they stand on any particular ruling.
Now the NHL could do away with all this angst, finger pointing and claims of favouritism that tend to accompany these rulings with ease if they so desired.
If they made some simple changes, they could place the whole issue outside the league offices, leaving all the aggression — which would no doubt continue but be greatly reduced — for someone else to deal with.
There has been no end of suggestions as to how they could off-load the entire problem on to a three-person committee which would be chosen by the league, the NHL Players Association and then a third person tie-breaker type mutually agreed upon by both sides.
That three-person committee could then decide which incidents were reviewed, what the penalties would be, if any, and it would be completely at arm’s length from the league.
You could make contacting any member of said committee off limits to all teams and perhaps even have the commissioner as the sole route of appeal, if that didn’t cause too much of an outcry from the NHLPA. The league would be free of it all.
But the commissioner and Board of Governors have chosen not to do that. So you’re left with the question why. Why would they not rid themselves of this headache when it would be so easy to do so? You’re left with only one reasonable explanation, really. And that would be this:
They want it like this. They want it this way, with all the bickering and cries of unfairness, lapses in judgment or even prejudice when these rulings come out.
Seriously, when faced with such an obvious cure that they won’t consider, you have to conclude they’re happy to put up with it. And if that’s the case, you then find yourself asking why they wouldwant it that way.
That’s where we get into even heavier speculation. The first inclination is to say that they don’t want to give up the power or control. But power for what? To control or gerrymander, making life easier on their friends and picking on other owners and their teams? That leaves you very staunchly in the conspiracy camp, where nobody feels comfortable.
Do they do it for the publicity, so that people are talking about the league with passion, particularly in the U.S. when these violent events and their subsequent resolutions are often the only hockey issues that make the mainstream sports newscasts?
Or perhaps they like it because it is such a massive distraction, particularly now when you seem to get one or more of these incidents on a nightly basis.
When people are jumping up and down worried about perceived unfairness to a particular player or team, perhaps they’re failing to notice other negative things about the league that might otherwise get coverage.
People won’t notice the sad-sack franchises that never move and never improve, the fact the league is still very much peripheral in the U.S. market despite all of the strategies to bring it up in the world, or any number of greater negative stories that might perplex owners.
Take your pick of reasons. But make no mistake, this song and dance could be fixed or greatly muted, yet the league chooses not to. It’s your guess as to the reason why.
© Copyright (c) The Province