In keeping with some of the other changes happening within the National Hockey League, commissioner Gary Bettman announced this evening that future-Hall-of-Famer and current VP of Hockey and Business Development Brendan Shanahan will be the leader of the NHL's new Department of Player Safety. In addition to examining the legality of head shots and the evolution of protective equipment given hockey's ongoing concussion crisis, Shanahan will also be replacing Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell as the NHL's new Head of Discipline.
Shanahan's ascendance to such a position can hardly be considered a surprise given his recent relationship with the league office. Credited, at least in part, with the idea of last year's "Captain's Pick" All-Star Draft and already, as mentioned above, a league executive, Shanny has been influencing the executive staff in clearly substantial ways since his retirement in 2009.
The legacy of Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman's other announcements from his yearly State of the League presser after the jump...
Let's just come out and say it—Flyers fans aren't exactly fond of Mr. Campbell. Quite frankly, it might be difficult to find any hockey fan with complimentary words for the now former Head of Discipline.
Campbell's decisions regarding supplemental discipline—read: fines and suspensions—were often derided as unfair and wildly inconsistent. Remembering Campbell from his days as a player during the era of the Broad Street Bullies and his later stint as the head coach of the New York Rangers in the mid-1990s, Flyers fans have always been wary of Colin's potential for a predisposition to judgement in cases involving members of the Orange & Black.
That said, Campbell has performed one of the single most thankless jobs in all sports for the past 17 years. Though local fans may feel Campbell exhibited a specific bias toward our fair city and its hockey club, the truth is that such a sentiment was fairly common around the league. After all, literally any fine or suspension could be criticized as inconsistent with previous disciplinary measures given the somewhat impossible task of establishing stone precedents in an evolving league and a sport with constant motion that can switch from fluid to violent in an instant.
Moreover, handing out punishments and aggravating fan-bases wasn't a job Campbell exactly relished. Indeed, as Gary Bettman detailed during his Wednesday evening press conference, it was Campbell himself who suggested the job be turned over to Shanahan. In agreement, Bettman joked that Campbell's nearly two decades in such a controversial position has certainly qualified as "punishment enough."
While excitement for a new head of discipline is certainly understandable, it remains to be seen if Shanahan can make any better of the disciplinary mess than his predecessor. Though Colin certainly appeared overwhelmingly inept when performing his job, time will tell if such a perceived incompetence is truly the shortcomings of Campbell or, rather, the inevitable thanklessness of the responsibility.
This discussion has, until this point, attempted to keep the discussion of Campbell's tenure somewhat balanced, but this 2010 post from MC79Hockey.com featuring a chain of messages between Collie and former Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom appears to point to some less than objective statements from key members of the league office. Is he a Flyer hating scumbag? Is he an alright guy with a tough job? Is the bend in the road a dead end if you round the corner and see Dean Warren standing there? We'll let you be the judge.
As for other league updates, commissioner Bettman revealed that the former Atlanta Thrashers will remain a member of the Southeastern Division for the 2011-2012 season despite their change in location. After the season, re-alignment will discussed to relieve the travel strain on both Winnipeg and its division rivals.
Though Bettman could not speak with any level of certainty, he did speculate on the future of the league's structure, commenting on the potential of a Winnipeg move to the Western Conference. Obviously, such a scenario would necessitate a Western conference club coming back East and a subsequent realignment of the Eastern divisions. Though a Central Division-Southeastern Division swap would be the cleanest in terms of preserving the current alignment, the issue is obviously complicated and resolution remains a long way from settled. Adding one extra nugget for the fans and media, Bettman also hinted that realignment could include a return to a more balanced schedule between Eastern and Western and division and non-division foes, similar to that which was utilized prior to the 2004-2005 lockout.
Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks begins begins this evening at 8ET. Alright 'Nucks.