Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 4/15/12

The National Hockey League has suspended New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin for three games for his elbow to the head of Daniel Alfredsson in the second period of Saturday's Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden. Hagelin had a hearing with VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan earlier this afternoon.

According to the rulebook and the rulebook alone, yes, Carl Hagelin deserves the suspension. The NHL is, well, supposedly is striving to remove all dangerous hits to the head from the game. Therefore, any hit that results in contact with the head, whether it was intentional or not, should warrant a suspension. I compare this to the tripping penalty; it is going to be called whether the player intended to get his stick caught in the opposition's skates or not. This is the only way the League is going to get rid of head shots all together. 

Hagelin went into the corner with his elbows recklessly up in the air, and even though he did not originally target the head, it was his irresponsible actions that led to Alfredsson absorbing the hit with his face. Yes, Alfredsson ducking initiated the contact with the head, but regardless, Hagelin's elbows were up when they shouldn't have been. So by the rules, it is a suspendable play. 

However, where the objection lies is in the NHL's consistency of the application of this rule. Earlier last week we saw a play in the Detroit Red Wings/Nashville Predators series in which defenseman Shea Weber deliberately took the head of forward Henrik Zetterberg and smashed it into the glass using his hand. There was deliberate intent to injure the head on that play by Weber, so again, by the rules, there's no arguing that the poor decision by Weber warranted a suspension. However, Brendan Shanahan assigned only a $2,500 fine to Weber, therefore allowing Shea to play in the very next game. 

Taking that into consideration now, Hagelin's hit to the head of Daniel Alfredsson, which was not intentional, should not be a suspendable play. If Shanahan is going to set standards by only handing out a fine for a deliberate intent to injure the head, he also needs to establish consistency with that. There's no way he can make a case for Hagelin's hit on Alfredsson being anywhere near as bad as Weber's smashing of Zetterberg's head in Nashville. 

Also, whether or not the victim of the head shot was injured should not decide if a suspension should be applied. Again, we look at the Weber/Zetterberg incident, and clearly there was intent there. But if Zetterberg is injured on the play, does Shanahan change his mind and hand Weber a suspension? Probably, which exposes just how corrupt the NHL's disciplinary system is. 

And does star reputation vs. non-star reputation factor into the final decision as well? Is Shanahan more inclined to suspend a rookie in Hagelin than he is a well-known superstar such as Weber? That shouldn't be the case, but I can put my money on it having an impact of some sort. 

Lastly, three games is not justifiable based on the penalties, or lack thereof, that Shanahan has delivered to far more serious incidents over the past week or so. This is excessive, especially for someone who has no record whatsoever. 

Shanahan's explanation of the Hagelin suspension:

So now you're going to tell me that Hags' hit was any worse than Chris Phillips' elbow/shoulder to the head of Ryan Callahan in the same game?

Video:

 

Chris Phillips, by the way, did not have a hearing with Shanahan for that hit on Callahan. So although he nearly left his feet to plant his shoulder into Callahan's head, the two-minute elbowing minor was satisfying enough, right? Right?

This, coupled with what we saw between the Penguins and Flyers this afternoon, is making the National Hockey League into a joke. 

It's truly sad. 

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