Shanahan takes two steps backwards in gaining some credibility for the NHL.
With the goaltender out of his crease playing the puck, the focus of the attacking player should be on puck possession - on attempting to stick-check, intercept, interfere with or block the clearance attempt by the goalie. Lucic clearly made no attempt to alter his course in order to play the puck. That would be the appropriate hockey play - to take advantage of the open net by gaining possession and attempting to score. What Lucic did, regardless of his attempts to pretend otherwise, was take a clear run at the goaltender. Lucic seems to turn his attention from the puck to Miller once he realizes that Miller will win the race to the puck - he is perhaps only 10 feet from Miller at the time, but the hit is primarily to Miller's back, as Miller turns down and away, and in addition Lucic throws his elbows into the hit - it would be hard to say that this was a defensive move on his part considering Miller's body position and the size difference between them. To conclude that there was no intent is a strange assumption given the evidence, and really brings Shanahan's judgement into question. Whether there was an intent to injure or not, the result was injury, and the willingness to take the risk of injuring the much smaller Miller was very obvious. The play has been referred to as rare - it was not a typical hockey play, and should be disciplined as such.
Lucic's responses were inflammatory - he was smirking as he skated off the ice - he made smug comments after the game that his team would have answered the bell - that the Bruins are a different kind of team than the Buffalo Sabres. Clearly Lucic was admitting that his hit called for retribution - what it called for was a suspension and the NHL whiffed on this one. The notion that there was no "intent" is an intangible that runs right against the appearance of the incident. The decision not to suspend Lucic undermines the sense that the officials and the NHL exercise appropriate control over the game. Justice is left to the players. The result - the NHL continues, despite recent efforts, to appear like Mickey Mouse runs the show.
Ironically, Lucic's attempts to feign innocence doesn't hold any more water than his tough talk after the game. Like Buffalo, the Bruins did not actually respond to Cooke's hit on Savard - until a later date. Why didn't the Bruins respond at the time? Why didn't Buffalo "respond"? The inference is that they were not "man" enough. But the idea that retribution deters these kinds of incidents is nonsense. This logic that teams need to engage in their own form of retribution is actually more likely to result in another incident with intent to injure - and the cycle goes on. No suspension in the end translates into fair is fair and that if Buffalo runs Thomas or Rask to the hospital the next time these teams face each other, then that is the way these things should be handled - cheap shot for cheap shot. The NHL can say that this incident does not indicate open game on goaltenders, but the failure to suspend is a contradiction that is obvious. Hopefully the result of the revenge is not the end of another player's career. But let's get back to the question of why there was no "response".
Perhaps these teams did not respond at the time because the INJURY IS MORE IMPORTANT AND SIGNIFICANT THAN THE RETRIBUTION. Perhaps the injury has an immediate sobering effect. In the case of Ryan Miller, hopefully his injury doesn't prove to be career threatening. Simply because he was not knocked unconscious does not indicate that he will be just fine - or that Buffalo is embellishing the injury - it often takes some time before the symptoms of an impact injury surface. The popular logic of "responding" only conflates a problem that is degenerating the game.
This is simply a very unfortunate decision on the part of Shanahan and the NHL.
To repeat - the injury is more important than the retribution - which is why the NHL needs to effectively discipline and enforce more respectful behaviour from it's players. Sean Thornton throwing a few punches after the fact in a bout with Matt Cooke does not heal Savard's injury and does nowhere near as much to prevent recurrance as a suspension does. Would the Bruins rather see retribution, or would they rather see Marc Savard still playing hockey? Dumb question right? No matter what kind of vicious act Buffalo might engage in to gain some form of revenge, Ryan Miller is still going to have a concussion. And once again, Boston feels free to go about business as usual. Personally I would rather be watching hockey games with Miller, Savard, Crosby etc in the lineup. The 1950s "war is peace" logic of the NHL may lead to an entertaining circus the next time Buffalo and Boston face each other, but is that circus really better for the NHL than having their marquis players healthy and in the lineup? Evidently the NHL is not sure what to make of this question. But leaving these incidents in the hands of players, to gain retribution, is going to result in yet more regrettable outcomes, and simply undermines the respectability of the NHL.
There is also a perception that the Boston Bruins style of extra-curricular violence is the appropriate path to success in the NHL. Talk after the Miller hit included references to the Finals last year when the Canucks were alleged to not have "responded" enough to Bruins' cheap shots and nonsense after the whistle. Bruins fans and former players may suggest that the Canucks are the most hated team in the NHL - but I'd be willing to bet that any true poll would show that the Bruins are in fact the least favorite team in hockey. PJ Stock, Mike Milbury and Don Cherry may have been given a soapbox by the CBC, but they do not really speak for the majority of people out there. Boston is continuing to cultivate a lot of contempt - the kind of cheap shots they engage in do not gain them respect, and do not make them better men than their opponents. It actually dilutes their success - it gives the impression that it is the key to their success. It is a long season; if they continue to put every team in the league on notice that to play Boston means to face a team that takes liberties with inpunity, they may find teams "responding" in kind. Perhaps in the end even Boston would have been better served by a Lucic suspension. The absence of an appropriate response by the NHL has yet another unfortunate, degenerating effect.
The NHL should rethink this decision and get it right, even if it means ruling that the initial review came to the wrong conclusion.