Shawn Thornton has apologized to practically everyone over his loss of control in his assault on Brooks Orpik. Orpik, the Penguins, the Bruins, the fans, and probably a few people we wouldn’t think of. He was so thoroughly abashed by his own behavior it seemed a solid notion that he would not appeal a likely ten game suspension. Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety dropped a five game hit on James Neal for hitting Brad Marchand in the head, and then Dion Phaneuf got two (a little light) for boarding Kevan Miller. So, ten seemed logical for the two time Stanley Cup winner who had never been suspended in his eleven seasons of playing in the NHL.
Well, logic be damned here. In his attempt to send in the words of Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma a “strong message”, the DoPS hit Thornton with fifteen games. This was a unusual situation, and an unusual suspension. I thought the matter over and done with until I read this on the Bruins website. The first one is from Bruins’ general manager Peter Chiarelli.
“We respect the process including the ability to attend and present our case in person. At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him.”
“Exhausted all rights available”? That certainly sounds like that Thornton might challenge the number of games suspended. With the rather aggressive inconsistency of penalties coming out from the Department of Player Safety, it wouldn’t be outside the right of Thornton to challenge it. So, I kept reading and took a look at what Thornton himself had to say on the matter.
“I am aware of today’s ruling by the NHL Department of Player Safety. I will be consulting with the Bruins, my representation and the NHLPA about next steps, and will be in a position to address the matter publicly after speaking with those parties. Until then I will have no further comment.”
Ok, let us assume that Thornton has already sat down with Neely and Chiarelli (or at least had a phone call on the matter). In a previous article, Neely argued that the suspension was unfair. “Higher than I expected and higher than I think is warranted. We’ve had our fair share of players hurt badly by concussions,” Neely added. “I don’t think anyone’s gotten a 15-game suspension out of those. Thornton is a guy who plays the role he plays and has never had any suspensions or issues. It comes down a little harsh for me.”
Now, he’ll have a go with the players union, who will likely encourage an appeal. It’s a pretty safe bet the union doesn’t want to have one of the good “enforcers” being labeled a “goon”. (Then again, there are a few Penguins fans who would call players like Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask ‘goons’.) Then that leaves it in the hands of Thornton himself. Then I found this quote from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun which makes me believe there could be an appeal.
Shawn Thornton‘s agent Anton Thun says they’ll take a few days to figure out whether or not they’ll appeal. Obviously disappointed.
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) December 14, 2013
Will Thornton ask to be excused for this? No, we know he’s not Patrick Kaleta. He’s a better man than that. What he (and to an extent the NHLPA) will be attempting to reduce it from fifteen games to ten, something more in line and consistent with what the DoPS has been handing out. If Thornton does choose to go this route, he will be charting new territory for players. It would have to go through Gary Bettman and then an independent arbitrator (hopefully one who isn’t a Pens fan.) The next few days could be some of the more interesting days the league and the players’ union have had since the lockout last season.