Friday, December 13, 2013

Shawn Thornton is about to be suspended; Plus we explain how the Pens handle injuries

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Shawn Thornton's in-person hearing began today.  A decision may not come out until tomorrow.

Huh? What is there to consider that they haven't been able to consider over the past week?

Our punishment would be 40 games, mainly because the conduct itself deserves it -- it wasn't during play, it was clearly premeditated, and it was an attack from behind leaving Orpik no ability to protect himself.  Not much different from the Steve Moore incident, if at all.  Truly, Orpik could have died.  But from a strategic standpoint -- assuming the NHL actually wants to deter these things -- a bombshell suspension would be a win/win for the league because it leaves the NHLPA (several former players are suing the league over concussions) with only two options.  The NHLPA can accept the punishment, which hopefully would have the actual practical impact of deterring this stuff in the future (and preventing more concussions).  That's a good thing for everyone except Shawn Thornton.  Alternatively, the NHLPA could fight it as being too harsh, which would put them in the uncomfortable and legally precarious position of having to defend this behavior.  That's a win for the league even if the NHLPA could ultimately get such a suspension reduced.

This is the Roger Goodell approach.  The NFL arguably over-punishes hits to the head and basically destroyed the New Orleans Saints for a whole season.  But Goodell is trying to box the players and the union into a corner where if they continue to hit each other in the head even in the face of overwhelming punishment from the league, they will have no one to blame (or sue) but themselves.

The way forward is obvious.  But the will probably isn't there.

Explaining the Pens' injury protocol, Mark Madden's latest column, and some thoughts on Jaromir Jagr after the jump...

- Orpik is skating, which seems like progression, but Bylsma suggested otherwise.

For anyone confused by how the Pens deal with injuries, particularly concussions, here's a quick explanation:  There is process, and then there is progress.  There has to be a process in place, then there must be procedures taken for following the process.  If the process shows progress, then you can progress through the procedures of the process.  This progress is not progression in terms of being asymptomatic, but is simply progression through the protocol.  Only after the protocol has proceeded along a certain path can there be progress, but that progress is just the beginning of the process of progression to being asymptomatic.  If symptoms return, then the process must begin anew, with previous progression no longer pertinent.  But if there is progress in the process, and progression proceeds according to the protocol, then you can progress to practicing, which is another stage in the progression, but is not in itself to be considered progress.  You follow that protocol, and if there is true progress, and not simply a progression through the protocol procedures, then you can progress to playing.  It's really quite simple.

Get To Our Progression
- Mark Madden has an interesting take on the whole fiasco, which I'll sum up: the Pens should stop martyring themselves and should embrace goons, not because goonery is good, but because the NHL has shown no interest in getting rid of goons, so why should the Pens take a stand when no one else will.

It's a thought provoking idea, and he does make some good points about the hypocrisy underlying the different levels of outraged aimed at different players depending on who is proclaiming outrage.  I particularly like how he responds to those saying Orpik should have fought Thornton by pointing to the fact that Brad Marchand -- one of the dirtiest players in the league -- has one fighting major in the past two years.  Why should Orpik have to answer for his actions but Marchand never answers for his?  I'd love to know how many times over the past 4 years Brad Marchand has turned down an invitation to fight ...

But I part ways with Madden on two fronts: first, he gives the Pens too much credit as leaders in changing the game.  The Pens have certainly come around to talking a lot about cleaning up the game, but it usually takes two to tango, and the Pens are not without blood on their own hands (does no one remember the Flyers series in 2012?).  And second, while watching someone beat up Shawn Thornton would undoubtedly be satisfying to us all in the short term, the Pens would be much better poised to beat Boston by stocking their bottom 6 with actual hockey players.

- Jaromir Jagr is making yet another possibly final appearance in Pittsburgh in tonight.  He's an all-time great player, perhaps the greatest winger of all time.  But I've grown a little weary of the whole ex-Penguin storyline, and by weary, I mean I slip into a catatonic state every time the debate about how to treat him is reignited.  At this point, the thing that first comes to mind when I think about Jagr is that we and the Pens were wrong about not wanting to match the Flyers' offer for him 2 years ago.  (The Pens offered $2M, the Flyers offered $3.3M).  Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight is also clear that at this year's trade deadline, the Pens desperately need offensive depth and the Devils may be looking to flip a certain aging winger for future assets ...


  1. I agree Thorton should get 40, but where do you stand on Neal's 5? Also an unsuspecting victim, entirely avoidable, and intentional to the head. Why isn't that 40 games too? Or at least 20?

    1. Biggest difference is probably just that it happened during play, so at least there's somewhat of a heat-of-the-moment element (even though it was avoidable). Plus there was no injury, as opposed to a legitimate risk of end-of-career type injury with Thornton. I admit there's an element of bias here, but it just wasn't as bad.

    2. Also, there are probably about 30 other guys who would've loved to take a knee to Marchand's head because he's utterly intolerable. Not saying it's right, but being complete tool has its consequences. Hard to feel bad for him/be upset with Neal, especially as Marchand is fine.