In the case of Miller v. Lucic…

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Sorry folks but the judge, jury and executioner has spoken on this.  I have no doubt that this is one of those calls that will be highlighted in the DoPS’ first year of operation, and for good reason.  In terms of setting precedents for on-ice interactions, the DoPS is interpreting and upholding the rules of the NHL just like a court would the law.  Right off the bat Shanahan started this with all the example of acceptable and illegal hits for the updated rules before preseason even started, which is exactly what needed to be done since everything before was more loosely enforced hearsay for what was and wasn’t acceptable.    In case you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen the incident in question, let’s review the evidence:

 There’s two sides to reviewing this play: the actual wording of the NHL rules, and the circumstances of the play.  Shanahan quoted Rule 42.1 in his decision, or at least the part that says “a goalkeeper is not fair game just because he is outside the goal crease area.”  Seeing as this is under the bylaws for charging, it shouldn’t of course mean “don’t hit the goalie, ever”, this should just pertain to charging.  That is what the on-ice call was for, and in that sense Lucic was assessed the correct penalty, that’s where the wording of the rules is being held up by the referees.  The NHL charges them with upholding the rules on-ice to the best of their ability, any rulings past that are up to the DoPS and/or other appropriate league officials.  Part of the issue though is that the ref’s don’t have time to sit and review the play over and over, they have to make a call then and there based on what they saw.Let’s get to the meat of what people are miffed about though, why didn’t Shanahan suspend Milan Lucic?  After watching the hit over and over (which watching it in slow-mo makes it look way worse), I have to say that I agree with the DoPS’ ruling.  Shanahan get’s the luxury of being able to review the play, talk to any involved parties is he chooses, and most importantly take a look at the circumstances of the play.  Sure, Lucic probably could’ve avoided or minimized contact with Miller, or tried to predict where the puck was going and made a move to intercept it, but up until a split second before the point of impact he was charging to where the puck was.  He was playing to the objective of the game: get the puck, put it in the net.

He’s not the first person to make a questionable move in pursuit of winning.  A famous example that always pops into mind for me is Ayrton Senna, the former Formula One champion who was known for his very aggressive driving style and tendency to force other drivers either move out of his way or battle for position.  Of course when they didn’t give way there would be a collision leading to someone crying foul and citing Senna’s hard charging tactics.  In defense of his style, he famously said in an interview “…if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win.”  Really this can be paraphrased to be applicable to any major sport.  In hockey, it means keeping your head in the game, playing the full 60 minutes, drive hard for the puck, crash the net; whatever you want to call it you do what you can within the rules to make sure that you win.

Was Lucic assessed the correct penalty for charging Miller? Yes.  Was it avoidable? Maybe.  Did he go out of his way to lay the hit and intend to injure Miller? I don’t believe so.  So overall, he got the penalty he deserved, and Shanahan made the right call in not handing out a suspension.  It’s unfortunate that Miller got a concussion as a result, but no matter what the DoPS does there are going to be injuries.  Maybe the league will take this as an opportunity to reword and clarify yet another rule, but for the time being the defense rests.

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