Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Morrison delivers his insights into the world of hockey, on and off the ice.
McLennan suspension another harsh message from NHL
Sunday, April 22, 2007 | 05:00 PM ET
By Scott Morrison
Some predicted Jamie McLennan wouldn't get any suspension, just a stern warning, maybe a fine.
Some said one game. Maybe two, tops. Just to send a message.
Few, if any, expected the Calgary Flames backup goaltender would get five games for his slash on Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen in Game 5 of their series Saturday afternoon.
On top of that, Flames coach Jim Playfair was fined $25,000 US and the organization $100,000 for the lack of discipline displayed in the waning minutes of a 5-1 loss to the Red Wings.
Few saw this coming ... at least on this side of the border.
The opening to a story in a Detroit paper Sunday morning read: "What are the Calgary Flames trying to do, ruin hockey for U.S. audiences? Bring on the suspensions."
The fear, of course, was the game was tainted for the NBC audience, another black-eye for hockey.
Whatever, in the case of McLennan, who survived 18 seconds and took 17 minutes in penalties, he was aggressive from the second he replaced Miikka Kiprusoff late in the third period. He hacked at Franzen a couple of times, before taking the big whack (though he held back to a degree) across his mid-section. Franzen wasn't hurt, but McLennan clearly had the opportunity to hurt him and started a swing that could have hurt him. But he didn't. Some say he was aggravated not only by the score, but by how his partner had been jostled throughout the game and the fact Franzen's stick had poked him in the neck area.
Whatever the motivation, players have to be responsible for their actions.
But five games?
The fact the Flames, including captain Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow, were very aggressive in the third period, taking a total of 11 penalties overall, five in the final 10 minutes, and were being very physical and chippy, might have influenced that decision. McLennan was an extension of what was happening and the league does not want to see two-handed swings.
Add that to the fact the league, through McLennan, could comfortably afford to send a strong message about behaviour late in games that are out of reach. You can safely bet Kiprusoff wouldn't have received the same punishment.
Consider this, too: It is an unwritten assumption that every game of a suspension in the playoffs is worth two in the regular season. Based on that, McLennan got the equivalent a 10-game regular-season suspension.
But, as the league has been doing with a lot of suspensions, including the 25 games given late in the season to Chris Simon, they continue to raise the bar.
Excessive? It certainly seems so.
But the message was delivered through a guy who wasn't going to impact the series in any other way. The other is just money.
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About the Author
Scott Morrison, the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fameís 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, has been covering hockey for 25 years. The Toronto native began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. Scott, a former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, joined Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 as Managing Editor, Hockey, and is currently both a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a columnist for CBC.ca.
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