Don’t be fooled by the headline, we’re not talking about the Canucks play of late. No, the subject of this post is the Canucks complete and total avoidance of any supplementary discipline this season. This year’s Canucks team is un-disciplined in that, unlike most teams, with three games remaining this season, they’ve yet to incur the vengeful wrath of the Shannaban-hammer.
For all of the noise made during last years playoff run (and the strange snarls emanating out of Chicago the other week) about how "dirty" the Canucks are top-to-bottom, the team’s supplementary discipline record under Shanahan’s tenure is squeaky clean. So squeaky clean, in fact, that it’s entirely unique in the league this season.
Brendan Shanahan has suspended players representing twenty-two teams this season, leaving eight organizations who have avoided losing any man-games to supplementary discipline: Ottawa, Tampa, San Jose, Los Angeles, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, New Jersey and the Vancouver Canucks.
Every other team has lost at least a game (mostly several) to suspension between the regular season, and the preseason – and several teams (including the boys from Chicago, Barry Rozner) have missed well over ten man-games because of Shannabans throughout the course of this season. The list of teams who’ve missed over ten man-games as a result of suspensions includes: Philly (16), Columbus (15), Chicago (14), Edmonton (13), Anaheim (12), Calgary (12), Buffalo (10) and Minnesota (10).
Does that list match up with what your eyes tell you are the league’s "dirtiest" teams this season? I don’t think so. Noticeably absent are rough and tumble teams like Boston and Phoenix, meanwhile Edmonton and Anaheim only make the list because of one roster player (Sutton and Jacques respectively) and clubs like Columbus and Minnesota have totals that are unduly inflated by Shanahan’s trigger happy performance in the preseason.
Because of the general inconsistency of supplemental punishment throughout the course of this season, "man-games lost to suspension" probably isn’t the best way of evaluating how "clean" a team plays, but the lack of Canucks suspended this season does seem to indicate a cognitive dissonance between perception and reality. That dissonance becomes even starker when you consider fines…
Of the eight teams who weren’t suspended this season, seven of them were fined at least the minimum amount for various infractions. The only team in the NHL this season who avoided any supplemental discipline: your Vancouver Canucks. Perhaps the new disciplinary regime was embarrassed by the heavy-handed Aaron Rome suspension, and is making it up to the club by treating them with kids gloves this year? Yeah, probably not.
While the record indicates that the Canucks are the "cleanest team" in the league – I have a tough time buying that. Certainly there’s been a couple of incidents that looked like a Canucks skater may have warranted supplemental discipline – Sturm’s hit on Petrell in the preseason, Kesler’s submarining of Clutterbuck and Daniel’s hit on Keith all come to mind. Ultimately, I think we have to call this blind-luck, but it should hopefully give the professional firebrands gearing up for their postseason anti-Canucks rants pause. Officially at least, the Office of Player Safety seems to consider the Canucks the "cleanest" team in the league.