Monday, December 19, 2011

Did Shanahan Make the Right Call Suspending Lucic for 1 Game?

I have to say I was surprised when I heard that Lucic got suspended. I didn't think much of the hit when it happened because I, as usual, tend to just agree with what the NESN analysists say, and they all seemed to agree that the hit was borderline, but not suspension-worthy. If this was any other player, the hit probably wouldn't be suspension-worthy either. As Shanahan says in the video, Lucic's frequent penalties, past suspension (2009) and fines (last year), and overall style of play that has built up quite a reputation among the league played a big factor in determining whether or not to suspend Lucic. The fact that he narrowly escaped suspension just a few weeks ago for the hit on Miller probably played a pretty big role, too.

Lucic is an amazing player and an irreplaceable Bruin who I love, but he has definitely let his lack of discipline and/or poor attitude start to show more and more this season. He's always had that kind of kick to his game and it didn't necessarily mean he was doing anything wrong, but nobody can overlook the fact that this season has seen a sharp increase in Lucic's penalty minutes. He takes stupid penalties multiple times a game - recently he received four separate minor penalties in one game! As the Versus announcers said of Horton during the playoffs last year, you can't score when you're in the penalty box and he is too valuable of an offensive asset to be spending so much time in the box. Now that has culminated into an entire game that will be lost of Lucic's very important contributions in a vital game against a divisional rival tonight against Montreal.

The physical aspect of Lucic's game is obviously one of the things that makes him special and effective, but I think he's lost a little bit of a sense of where the line is drawn between good physical play and dirty physical play. Many players may argue that Shanahan's strict rules and suspensions this season are making it hard for physical players to play their game without being unfairly punished, but I almost always agree with Shanahan in the job he has done thus far this season. It's impossible to assess punishments that people agree on or that are always accurate and consistent, but I appreciate his video analysis and can tend to see his point of view when he does rule on suspensions.

I understand why many fans disagree with Lucic's suspension and are upset about it, but I think that we are all - as always - insurmountably corrupted by our own bias even if we think we are being as objective as possible in assessing a situation. We will never be able to see over these biases, just like the people who say Lucic should have been suspended for the hit on Miller or other incidents may be unable to see why Lucic wasn't suspended because of their own bias. It's part of being a sports fan and it's a healthy part of being a sports fan even if it drives us crazy.

What is important is that now there is no question about bias in the part of the game that absolutely cannot be corrupted by any bias - the player safety department. Everyone who insisted that the Bruins get away with (or still do get away with) everything because of Colin Campbell's position are simply foolish if they still think that this may have any say in player discipline. Brendan Shanahan has done a great job in fairly and clearly assigning punishments to those that he and his team have ruled deserve such punishments. The process of achieving the ultimate goal of protecting player health by eliminating certain dangerous behavior is a goal that is still light years away, but his dedication and continuation in working towards that goal are commendable. When it comes to eliminating concussions and other serious and unnecessary injuries, we can't afford to let our bias get in the way because everybody should agree on that one point: player safety is the top priority.

And if making strides in improving player safety includes a one-game suspension to Lucic because he has largely shown a pattern of arguably dangerous and careless play, that is okay by me. I don't believe Lucic ever had any malicious intent, of course, but most players don't intend to cause harm that they are capable of inflicting. As I have said, Shanahan has said, and many others have said over and over: it's about changing the underlying behavioral patterns that take time and effort to change. Lucic can be a physically effective player without taking as many penalties as he does (he would still take some penalties, of course, because referees just make stupid calls sometimes). Even if he doesn't agree with this suspension, I hope it serves as an important change of heart and a future in which we see more Lucic on the ice, scoring goals, rather than in the box, helplessly shaking his head in disagreement.

Here's to Lucic's return in the next game on Friday against Florida being a kick in the ass offensively to get a consistent scoring streak going so he can get back to trying to top his 30-goals from last season!

Do you agree or disagree with this suspension?

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