Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pronger gets eight games

The National Hockey League has handed Anaheim Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger an eight-game suspension for stomping on Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler in a game Wednesday night.
Until the league will suspend stars, and even just 'good' players, in these kind of incidents, the crackdown means diddly. ... It's really only a matter of time before a big name gets caught.
— me, Oct. 16, 2007
Tom Benjamin hits the nail on the head when he says the NHL's pretty much in a no-win situation with this one.

I suppose the only argument you can make to justify the differing length in the bans to Pronger and Chris Simon is that one spends an awful lot more time on the ice than the other. Eight games without Pronger could be as many as 240 minutes missed on the ice; 30 games without Simon is probably just more than 300.

This is the problem with throwing the book at fringe players; how then do you react when a very similar action is taken by one of your stars?

Eight games is a lot for Pronger to miss; eight games is probably the right call.

UPDATE "I'd like to apologize to Ryan Kesler, the Vancouver Canucks, my teammates and the National Hockey League for my actions last Wednesday night," said Pronger. "While I did not intend to injure Ryan, I respect the league's decision on this matter and look forward to returning to the ice and leading my teammates into the playoffs."

"We understand the NHL's determination to reduce skate-blade incidents and accept the process and Mr. Campbell’s judgment," said Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke. "We also stand behind our captain, a player with great character and leadership qualities that are critical to our club.”


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At 3:07 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous MCD said...

I just told a friend yesterday, "I'll bet they suspend Pronger, but it'll only be 6 or 7 games or whatever they have left in the regular season. He'll be able to come back either in the first game of the playoffs or the last game of the season."

Shocking result. Simply shocking.

But James, if suspensions should apparently be based on ice time... does that mean that if Henrik Zetterberg or Dany Heatley pulls a McSorley/Brashear tonight that they should only be suspended for 7 or 8 games? You're punishing the act itself, punishing the player. Not the team. How the suspension will affect the team should not at all be considered.

At 3:20 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Dave said...

Absolutely the value of the player being suspended should be considered. Suspending Simon for 30 games probably benefited the Islanders. Suspending marginal or fringe players like they so often do is hardly a punishment. What they should do is if a player is suspended, the team can not dress another player to replace him. They should have to play with one less player during the suspension.

At 3:42 p.m., March 15, 2008, Blogger Aaron said...

I'm not sure the value of the player to the team should be taken into account. For better or worse the league set the precedent for multiple offenders who use their skates as weapons at 30 games. If the league had come out and said that they didn't feel this incident was quite as bad I would have settled for 15-20 games.

I think its ridiculous he can do this coming down the stretch and not miss any playoff time. If this happened in October of November would Pronger have gotten more than 8 games? I think the answer is yes and I think it makes this thing stink a little. I understand how important the playoffs are, but when is the league going to start taking them away as a means of altering someone's on-ice mentality? This hits me the same way a college football coach who is so outraged about a player's behavior he benches him for the first quarter of a meaningless game. Bench him for the fourth quarter, or better yet the whole game if you want to send a real message. It's a PR move and not something aimed at changing anything that happens on the ice.

Whatever the reason is that Simon got 22 more games than Pronger, there is clearly a double standard. I'll leave it to others to decide if it's a star thing, a market thing, a Burke thing, or a race thing but for two guys with the same history to commit the same crime and get such drastically different punishments stinks. (Do any of us think the league is smart enough to even be able to figure out how many minutes each guy would miss over their suspension?)

At 3:56 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous dmg said...

When you're talking about suspending a player and keeping in mind punishing them rather than than the team you have to consider salary: Simon made $1 million last year and I think about the same this year and hence lost somewhere in the $100,000-$200,000 range in salary.
Pronger makes 6.25 million, so he stands to lose $610,000. I'm sure that played a role as well.

Personally I think Pronger deserved 15-20 games - he's been suspended a bunch of times (like Simon), but never for anything as severe as Simon's hack on Hollweg. That, plus the fact that I thought Simon's stomp was worse and completely after the play, to me means Pronger doesn't deserve as many games as Simon got.

At 3:59 p.m., March 15, 2008, Blogger Black Dog said...

I think he should have gotten more but this is going to hurt the Ducks a lot I think. Missing Perry and now Pronger means they are set to finish second in their division, more likely third. So they get Dallas first round on the road, then Detroit, San Jose or the NW winner all on the road and then one of those teams again in the CF.

No guarantee how that will play out, of course, but this team's chance to repeat just took a pretty big hit. That is a tough tough row to hoe.

At 4:31 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Darrell said...

If I am Chris Simon, I sue the NHL for lost wages. I don't think the NHL can back up what they have done on evidence.

At 4:32 p.m., March 15, 2008, Blogger auxlepli said...

Pronger deserves 30. That's what Simon received.
Bruce MacLoed in his blog makes a strong argument of why Pronger's suspension should have been longer.

At 6:11 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand Colin Campbell has a tough job. But just because you have a tough job doesn't mean it's okay to suck at it.

At 6:25 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that dmg has made some good points. The money issue should be taken into consideration. I know if I lost one tenth of my annual salary it would sure serve as a deterrent. The game circumstances need to be taken into consideration. One is by the bench, the other is Pronger trying to get into the play.

I think Kesler's role in this situation has been unduly overlooked. Why was Pronger having such a hard time getting away/stumbling? Because Kesler was intentionally holding Pronger's ankle between his legs. That doesn't excuse Pronger stepping on Kesler's calf, but I think Kesler needs to take a look in the mirror on this one too. When you play dirty, shit happens to you. Kesler's whining after the game is moronoic if he thinks that he didn't play any part in what happened to him. Ruutu is the same thing. When you don't show respect for your opponents, you're a lot less likely to get some back.

Considering all of the above something between 6 and 10 games seems pretty fair.

At 6:43 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Players like Kessler and Ruutu and Avery are SUPPOSED to be irritating - that is the whole point of an "agitator" on a team, to irritate an opponent to the point he does something stupid.

Pronger has a temper, and has displayed a tendency to get frustrated and then immediately lash out. He has the impulse control of a two-year-old child.

He is the captain of the Ducks and on important player for them, and he knows that. His responsibility to the team should be enough to remind him to act like a grown-up instead of a brat.

The rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs - say 15 games - would have been significant, and maybe would have been enough to give him a clue that next time he is upset and frustrated, he should not do something that would put his own team in a bad position.

However, because he is a star player in the league and a good Canadian boy, he's fine unless he takes out the golden boy Sidney Crosby.

At 8:04 p.m., March 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that last comment is supposed to build on that Southern Fried Chicken's column on Canadian-oriented justice, I present to the jury American Gary Suter.

He rearranged Paul Kariya's face on the eve of the '98 Olympics and he got four whole games despite Kariya missing the Olympics for Canada and the rest of the regular season for the Ducks.

The same U.S. American drove Canadian Wayne Gretzky head-first into the boards. Not sure if he was even suspended for that one.

Just because it's printed in the fishwrap doesn't mean it's based on logic or facts.

At 12:32 a.m., March 16, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I tend to think that eight games is about right for this kind of incident. The only place where it stands out is with regards to the Simon precedent (and only that precedent). All I can say there is that Simon had just finished a 25 gamer, and was continuing to display a kind of recklessness that calls into question whether he should be allowed to keep playing at all.

Pronger undercuts that a bit with his own very recent history of suspensions, but (deserved or not) none of them were anywhere near the length of Simon's.

I'm not very sympathetic to the minutes played or dollars earned arguments, for reasons that others have already stated. I guess I might be influenced, though, by the fact that Pronger actually has the skills to play in the NHL. I don't mind extra-stiff sentences to players who are only in the league for their ability to endanger others.

At 4:21 a.m., March 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you play dirty, shit happens to you.

I think the word "dirty" applies a lot more to Pronger than to Kesler. If anyone deserves payback, it's Pronger for all the cheapshots he's handed out throughout his career.

And if anyone thinks Kesler needs to share the blame here, I got two words for you: STEVE MOORE. Moore's career was cut short because someone decided that Moore needed to "get his" for hitting Naslund.

Now I'm sure there might be a few players who would love to get even with guys like Kesler or Ruutu. If that's the case, challenge them to a fight. If not, lay them out with a CLEAN check the next chance you get. But there's no need to start using your skate blade as a weapon.

At 3:35 p.m., March 16, 2008, Blogger poploser said...


I don't buy the "time on ice" argument at all. If you do that, you are saying that the penalty is on the team, not the player who committed the act. Is that the purpose of discipline in this league? If that is so, then why arent players simply suspended for the length of time for any injury they cause? And if thats the case, then the more "valuable" players should be suspended longer because it will be more damaging to the team.

The problem with the league's decision in this case is that it forces the media, the players, and the fans to figure out the league's justifications for themselves.

You have two very similar incidents, and two very different results. Campbell's one line comment ("Pronger carelessly and recklessly brought his foot down") does little to explain what the league's reasoning was.

Compare that to the analysis Campbell gave with the Simon suspension:

“Several factors were considered in imposing the longest suspension in NHL history for an on-ice incident. While it was fortunate there was no serious injury to Mr. Ruutu as a result of Simon’s action, the deliberate act of kicking an opponent with an exposed skate blade, especially where the opponent is in a vulnerable position, is and always has been a repugnant and totally unacceptable act in the game of hockey.

What Campbell says he can be applied to the Pronger incident - no injury, opponent in vulnerable position - the one different that can be gleaned is the League seems to be saying that Pronger's incident was more "heat of the moment" (and therefore less "intentional") than Simon's. If intent is going to be such an important part of the analysis, why not say so here? Its a reasonable part of any punishment analysis, and would go a long way to explain apparent disparities.

More Campbell on Simon:

“In addition, while the act itself was extremely dangerous, the fact that this is the eighth incident requiring the imposition of supplementary discipline on Simon compelled me to impose a very severe penalty in this case. When a player repeatedly evidences the lack of ability to control his actions and conducts himself in total disregard of the rules, as well the health and safety of other players on the ice, each subsequent incident is deserving of enhanced scrutiny and more severe discipline."

Ok, so how is Simon's history any different than Pronger's? He's got 7 suspensions too, for the same type of incidents - high sticks, elbows, hitting people into the boards? Why is one person's history so important (Simons) and anothers (Prongers) apparently not important at all? Or maybe it was...I have to assume it wasn't, because the league didnt say anything about it.

More Campbell on Simon:

"This response serves not only the purpose of imposing appropriate punishment for the player involved, but also the purpose of deterring the player and all other players from engaging in similar conduct in the future - hopefully creating a safer long-term work environment for all NHL players.”

Here Campbell is explicitly saying that he WANTS suspensions to act as a deterrent. But then, when a very similar incident occurs, he punishes the later offender LESS harshly. If you are trying to get people to learn, and they don't, how can you punish them LESS? It completely cuts against the entire concept of deterrence.

Again, the league needed to explain its decision. Its failure to do so is almost as disappointing as the suspension itself.

At 5:49 p.m., March 16, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...


Good synopsis.

I can see why the league would give Pronger a lesser suspension than Simon, but 30 games down to 8 is far too lenient. The precedent was set at 30 games for a repeat offender who kicks someone - to reduce it to 20 would be logical, and potentially serve as a deterrent. All 8 games does is make sure that the Ducks captain will be well rested for the playoffs, and since their other Norris-calibre defenseman rested the first half of the season, as well as one of their most creative offensive threats, they will be in good shape in the playoffs to withstand the series of one-game supensions that pronger may get because he "accidentally" bruises his elbow on an opponent's head.

And it is clear from his comments that he has no intention of changing his style of play, even with the punishment. Despite the fact that he has the talent to be an excellent player if every cheap shot was a hard, clean hit. He doesn't NEED to act like a thug - and I don't recall him playing as dirty in his year in Edmonton, either, and he was incredible for them, especially in the playoffs.

I think he's probably safe from any severe suspension unless and until he takes out a bigger name than himself - a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or in the western conference maybe a Joe Thornton or Jarome Iginla - especially Iginla, I think, would result in a real punishment. As long as he sticks to smaller fish, he is fine - just as a cheap-shot artist who avoids the big stars himself is more likely to have a lesser punishment than someone who goes after a big name that the league can market.

And how sad is it that not only the fans think that NHL justice is arbitrary and capricious, but the players do as well? They feel that things such as the star status of a player, or whether he plays for a Canadian team, affects punishment, just as so many hockey fans are speculating that Burke scares the league office or that the Ducks get the benefit of the doubt because the owners of the team are friends with the commissioner.

When Maggie the Monkey would have more credibility handing out random punishments that Campbell, you have descended to banana republic status in terms of equal application of rules, and you might as well just disband the entire supplemental discipline system and tell the players they are on their own.


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