Sunday, March 3, 2013

Zolnierczyk's suspension a message well sent

It could be easily argued whether the four-game suspension dealt Sunday to Flyers fourth-line winger Harry Zolnierczyk was fair or not. In the world according to NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, however, there's no such thing as right or wrong, it's just his interpretation of reality that really matters.
So Shanahan can give three games to Washington's John Erskine for a dangerous elbow to the face of the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds a few weeks ago, even if Erskine wasn't penalized on the play during the game.
Then there can be multiple hits that straddle the border of what's right or wrong in this league that Shanahan's office can ignore, or he can surprise a team by offering the largest suspension of the season to a little known AHL promotee like Zolnierczyk who's trying his mightiest to play above his size at this level.
In this case, Shanahan's penalty was right on the mark.
Part of what landed Zolnierczyk in such trouble is that Ottawa defenseman Mike Lundin was left with a concussion after "Harry Z" hit him during the Flyers' 2-1 victory the Senators Saturday. The other obvious trouble point is that a camera angle caught Zolnierczyk leaving his skates to make the hit to the head area, a big no-no according to Shanahan.
"Instead of delivering a hard legal check, he launches prior to the check, making significant contact to Lundin's head," Shanahan said in his video announcing the suspension.
Beyond that, don't be surprised if Shanahan's office was well aware of the nearly dangerous hit Zolnierczyk put on Washington's Mathieu Perreault with 25 seconds left in a 4-1 win over the Capitals Wednesday night. Zolnierczyk got away with that one scot free. Despite being initially tagged with a game misconduct for kneeing, the penalty was later rescinded by the league.
In fact, he didn't knee the guy. But Harry Z., not a kid at 25 and with four years of Ivy League education at Brown on his resume, didn't learn his lesson, either.
To throw that hit in that spot was only a guy trying to impress his bosses in an effort to stay up here rather than go back to Adirondack. Can't blame him for the effort, but to crush the guy in the final minute of a game that had been over on the scoreboard for quite a while seemed a little over the top.
Zolnierczyk not only threw that one, but followed up in his very next game with a high hit on Lundin that was much worse. Consider this four-game suspension a payback by Shanahan, then, and an attempt to send a message to an excitable player that he needs to chill out a bit.
Might help if the Flyers' coaches tell him to try to better channel that energy, too.


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