The beat goes on in Boston - they are upset about the Marchand suspension, and they are posturing and protesting. Despite the fact that virtually everyone in the hockey world, even Don Cherry, considers Marchand's low bridge on Sami Salo an unacceptable cheap shot, the Bruins keep on keeping on.
Marchand over-reacted to an inconsequential bump with Salo on the boards moments previously, attempting to punch him in the back of the head a few times before eventually low bridging him. To deserve this, Sami Salo, uh, that is the mystery question. Boston thrives on over-reacting, but what was it that Marchand was over-reacting to? Truth is, they don't really need any incitement to over-react - it seems like more of a strategic thing. The story goes that Marchand was 'protecting' himself from an inconsequential body check like he had moments earlier, but again, he saw Salo coming the entire time, and instead lined up a predatory cheap shot. This incident is actually not very different in nature from Marchand's punk punches thrown at Daniel Sedin. I suppose Boston would have complained about incident as well if it had resulted in a penalty. They maintain their right to engage in extra-curricular shots at will, and bank on their greater ability to injure their opponent when the game steps over the line and gets out of hand. Marchand has shown a pattern of instigatiing, punching and taking cheap shot liberties against key, veteran players that he knows are disciplined, respectful and do not engage in fighting, let alone attempting to injure their opponents.
The Canucks have decided to move on and focus on the tasks at hand - their upcoming games and Sami Salo regaining his health - as opposed to continuing to engage in the distracting Brad Marchand drama. Iain's MacIntyre's comment that the "Canuck players and staff were suspiciously muted" was both surprising and a little strange. MacIntyre might be a journalist, but it is hard to sympathize with him here; I mean, does he really need more to work with? I think the Canucks decision to resist engaging endlessly in the sideshow is the right thing to do. They've had back-to-back games to prepare for. Boston can continue to complain and expose themselves all they want. They are not stupid, but they definitely seem to be lacking some perspective.
On the other hand, who can blame them? This kind of lobbying has worked for them thus far. When other teams try to go about having their interests heard, is that propaganda? It is understandable why Boston is upset. If they can no longer resort to these kind of antics - a couple punches in the back of the head, followed up with an indefensible clip... are they going to have a more difficulty winning games, as they have come to depend on these extra curricular liberties in order to gain an edge against their opponents?
I find it annoying when it is suggested that the Bruins play old time hockey - I don't remember old time hockey being so full of cheap shots.
Claude Julien chose to pose today as though his feelings have been hurt - the sarcastic "I guess we are stupid" thing that he did is signature Boston Bruins. Julien comes out and makes the claim that Salo was taking a run at Marchand, etc, etc. The whole narrative was pretty laughable. When asked what he thought of the comment, Alain Vigneault said "that's stupid...that's a stupid comment." Vigneault did not say Julien is a stupid person or that that the Bruins are a stupid organization. This is an important distinction. The difference between saying "you are an idiot" as opposed to "you are acting like an idiot" is not only a subtle difference; it is the difference between identifying, defining or naming someone in a negative way, and describing a negative behaviour. Vigneault made the distinction, a respectful one. Likewise, what Bieksa actually said was that the Bruins tend to do some stupid things. Some media guys may like to rephrase comments - for example - Bieksa's comments were framed to Brad Marchand as though Bieksa said that the Bruins play a stupid style of hockey, which changes the issue, looking to incite a newsworthy response, but not really representing Bieksa's point. The issue changed from a cheap shot, to a stupid style of hockey, a different issue. For Vigneault to say that Julien's claim that Salo was taking a run at Marchand was a stupid comment was fair. It was a stupid comment. It's not credible for Julien and Boston to continue to carry on avoiding the actual context and resorting to this "I guess we are stupid" passive-aggressive thing. Instead of simply saying something to the effect that the act and the injury was unfortunate, Boston is continuing to disrespect Salo and "defend"/"protect" themselves. Salo is the injured party here, not these guys who are acting all sensitive about their intelligence.
The implication that low bridging is acceptable is stupid; to allow it would lead to a whole lot of injuries, bad blood, and games reduced to gong shows. As noted, the NHL was clipping this in the bud. Marchand did the same thing to Daniel Sedin last year, and got away with it. He and Boston have chosen to take that for granted, as if an indication that Marchand could continue resorting to low bridges. That low bridging should be allowed in the NHL is a position with absolutely no credibility.
Vigneault, the Canucks and most of the rest of us know that the Bruins are intelligent - that is part of what makes their sense of entitlement come off so offensively. Arrogance comes to mind long before stupidity. The Bruins resort to a style of hockey that, as long as dirty hockey is allowed by NHL officiating and the Bruins have the most violent team, is more strategic for Boston than it is stupid. It is only stupid if the interests of the league as a whole, and not just the Boston Bruins, are considered. At that point, it becomes problematic and costly - the entertainment value is over-valued and not necessarily positive, and the cost to the players and team personnel is high. Play tough hockey, but when it comes to defending your right to take cheap shots, that is not tough hockey - it is sheer arrogance.
Boston's GM could be heard complaining about "propaganda" out of Vancouver, and that Marchand is the victim of an inconsistent standard in this suspension. This is also in-credible. The Bruins initiated the debate by going public with their string of petty rationalisations - Marchand is small, he was defending himself, Salo was taking a run, etc. But don't let the truth get in the way of your story. And then call what other people are saying "progaganda". To complain after the suspension, that Marchand had gone to the league in the off-season for clarification regarding the borderline hits he engages in, is weak. The fact that he went to the league is interesting. Was it for dramatic effect? It is highly unlikely the result of such a meeting was permission to continue to engage in low bridges. Who knows how Boston sees these kind of things, but they seem to be implying that Marchand got permission from the NHL to low bridge. This is the kind of sense of entitlement that would be expected from spoiled brats, but from NHL players? 'Seeking clarification' does not give you a blank cheque to low bridge; that is ridiculous. Who told Marchand that low bridging it permitted? There isn't much clarity to Boston's claims of clarification.
There is a common theme or pattern here; Boston crosses the line, Boston gets away with it, Boston then considers it their right to cross the line, Boston pushes it even further, Boston plays the victim when they take their liberties too far. Boston has low bridged before, Boston makes comments defending this low bridge, the response to those comments is that the comments, like the low bridge itself, were stupid, Boston is the victim of propaganda. Boston blames the suspension on propaganda - Boston maintains their right to low bridge. Boston has been wronged. Boston will go on being Boston.
Sami Salo is the injured person, with a concussion from a low bridge. Marchand didn't expect much of a suspension.
Boston was apparently either expecting patronage, or seriously insulting Shanahan's intelligence. Personally, I think suspensions like this should have an open-ended element, for example five games or greater, pending the extent of the injury, but for now, I appreciate Shanahan for stepping up and feel his reasons for judgement and explanation of the context was accurate. In the wake of the Gregory and Colin Campbell conflict of interest, Campbell's documented attempts in the past to influence officials in his son's favour (via emails to director of officiating Stephen Walkom), the NHL needs to rebuild its' credibility and the perception of objectivity. Boston can talk about propaganda all it wants, but that leads to the topic of politics, one they should probably avoid. I didn't agree with the leniency shown Lucic - if you want to use the term "taking a run", then what Lucic did to Miller is a context where that phrase probably applies. But in this incident, I think Shanahan took a few steps forward for the NHL, and called the Marchand cheap shot what it was.
I'm like most hockey fans - I like the way Marchand plays the game, when he is actually playing the game, except when he resorts to undisciplined, cheap-shot hockey, which he does far too frequently. On-ice officials should not be letting Marchand throw multiple punches in the first place, at anyone, let alone Hart and Art Ross trophy winners - it is no wonder Marchand feels entitled. It is an embarrassment to hockey to permit veteran cornerstones of the game to be disrespected like that. NHL officials make a joke of themselves when they permit it. It would be inconceivable in other sports. It is bad advertising, and bad business to allow your 'stars' to be reduced that way, let alone condoning bad sportsmanship.
Marchand apparently doesn't feel the need to rethink anything, evidenced by having been smart enough to win the Stanley Cup, but his comments today didn't quite have the same impact as similar comments made by Patrick Roy, and the context in which they were made was obviously entirely different. Marchand insisted today that he has no intention of changing the way he plays the game, that he will continue to "protect" himself, and that all players need to. Wise comment after wise comment. Perhaps this is what Bryan Burke is talking about when he cites the necessity of having players who exercise retribution, preventing B-rats from running around ruining the game? I think it is important for the NHL to exercise responsibility and avoid leaving it to players and teams resorting to plan B, and that means supporting Shanahan when he applies tougher standards of justice.
At first, I was fairly satisfied with the five game suspension, but now I am rethinking that, wondering if it wasn't enough. Boston apparently figures as long as they call it "protecting" themselves when they intend to injure their opponents, the rest of the hockey world must be wrong.
Marchand injured a class-act veteran with a cheap shot and is acting like he could care less.
Apparently he intends to continue testing Shanahan's (and NHL officials') judgement in the future.