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Malkin vs. Brashear

Well, wouldn't that be entertaining?  Now that I've piqued your interest, let's get down to a more serious discussion.

The NHL's selective and wholly-unpredictable supplementary discipline for suspendible offenses has been a long running theme, well pre-dating even this spring's post-season.  But the response (or non-response) to the multiple transgressions committed by Penguins center Evgeni Malkin brings the league's stated goals of fair and impartial justice into le Théâtre de l'Absurde.

One hot topic of discussion immediately after Game Two of the SCF last Saturday was Malkin's instigation of a fight with Detroit's banged-up captain, Henrik Zetterberg (who, by the way, is much more deserving of a regal title than is some goalie the Capitals faced over a month ago), during the final five minutes of the game.  As all of you astute readers know, a player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes is to be suspended for one game, pending a review. 

However, Colin Campbell, the league's director of hockey operations, before the calendar even turned to Sunday, rescinded the automatic suspension with this statement:

Suspensions are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight.  A suspension could also be applied when a player seeks retribution for a prior incident.

Neither was the case here and therefore the one game suspension is rescinded.

Reasonable minds may, or may not, disagree.

But I said "multiple transgressions."  And here's where the rules would appear to apply even more clearly.  Unequivocally.  Without a tortured reading and review.  An earlier incident involving Malkin has not generated much reaction at all.

Before Game Two, Malkin, standing against the boards during the pre-game warmups, at the center red line and directly behind the fresh-faced Pierre McGuire (who was again ensconced between the benches), swung his stick over the line and struck Red Wings' D Chris Chelios in the shins as the latter was skating by.  Watch the contact at the 17-second mark of this TSN clip

The Canadian-wide leader referred to the slash as "another little bump" and, to be sure, it was mild.  But, as you'll recall, Caps heavyweight Donald Brashear was swiftly suspended for one game specifically for initiating contact with Rangers forward Colton Orr during the pre-game warm-up.  As Tarik reported after that April 26th Caps game versus the Rangers, and as we all saw watching the center ice push-off between the two enforcers, "it wasn't much of a bump."  But the force of the contact is irrelevant:  "[L]eague rules prohibit such contact."  (See Rule 86.6.)

Except, apparently, in the case of Malkin.  And not even an official attempt to distinguish between the Brashear/Orr incident and this Malkin slash on Cheli. 

THN's Adam Proteau seems skeptical that there is any limit to the absurdity inherent in the league's administration of supplemental discipline:

[L]et’s say Malkin cold-cocked and concussed Zetterberg, knocking him out of the lineup for the remainder of the series. Would Campbell’s supplementary discipline verdict have been rendered so quickly – and with such tacit compassion for the aggressor?

Somehow, I doubt it. But really, who knows what the NHL will do anymore?

What can we make of this disparate treatment, other than a blatant unwillingness to suspend a star player no matter whether clear rules are flagrantly violated?