I'm all for the NHL treating the playoffs different from the regular season. Playoff games are much more valuable than regular season games, and what draws a one-game suspension in the regular season should probably be just a fine in the playoffs, even when dealing with a repeat offender. No one is really going to argue this, nor should they.
However, what Shea Weber did to Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg Wednesday night in Nashville goes beyond what I'd expect to be a one-game suspension in the regular season. For those who haven't seen it, here's the video once again.
To summarize, Weber tried to hit Zetterberg in the head, missed, and instead of backing off because the game was basically over, he carefully and intentionally rammed Zetterberg head-first into the glass. (By the way, the Predators beat the Red Wings 3-2 to open the series with a win. Not that such information is terribly important here.)
I don't care if Weber has won a Lady Byng (yes, I know he hasn't). It also doesn't matter if Weber has any history of this type of behavior (unless he has worked for WWE in a previous life, this doesn't seem likely). Also irrelevant is whether Zetterberg was injured or not (he's reported to be fine).
The NHL needs to send a message. The message early in the season was that players who targeted the head of an opponent would face discipline, even if it wasn't on purpose. That message seems to have been muddied a bit by an obsession over injuries.
As evidence, I present to you the NHL's own statement in which a $2,500 fine was announced for Weber, with no suspension.
"We felt this was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass," said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. "We reached out to Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2."
There are instances (hi, Steve Moore!) where the injury that results from a play should be taken into account when deciding on supplemental discipline, and there are times where an act doesn't end up being as bad as TV cameras might have made it look. We're not idiots. We understand these things.
But there are so many holes in the NHL's logic here that we don't have the time or inclination to call them all out at once.
Weber targeted the head of an opponent, so much so that the only thing keeping this from being a WWE re-enactment was the Nashville crowd didn't count along with the turnbuckle smashes. Oh, and the WWE is staged. Contact in the NHL is real and spontaneous (usually).
There's no excuse. No defense. And there is also no defense for the NHL letting Weber play in Game 2.
Zetterberg isn't injured now. Pierre-Marc Bouchard of the Minnesota Wild wasn't injured after Zack Bogosian sent him face-first into the boards in Winnipeg in December. How'd that end up? Well, let's go back to Jan. 10 and ask Wild beat writer extraordinaire Michael Russo:
Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who returned Dec. 1, 2010, from more than a year away with a concussion, has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.
According to GM Chuck Fletcher, Bouchard hasn't felt comfortable since the Zach Bogosian check into the boards last month in Winnipeg. Late in last week's Vancouver game, Bouchard was elbowed and has been experiencing symptoms.
You can't guarantee that concussion symptoms will stay away after a player gets hit in the head. They've been known to pop up after the fact. In fact, it seems to happen a lot. Need I remind you what happened to Sidney Crosby around Jan. 2 of last year? How did that turn out?
Supplemental discipline should send a consistent message. What's the message here? What more evidence does someone need? Slamming a player head first into the glass isn't a hockey play. Weber wasn't trying to jar the puck loose. He wasn't trying to keep Zetterberg from driving the net and getting a scoring chance.
Hell, he can't even explain what he did.
"It’s playoffs," Weber said.
The NHL preaches concussion awareness. The NHL preaches player safety. The league doesn't appear to have much of a clue about either. If you and I are fully aware that concussion symptoms don't always show up right after a player is hit in the head, why does the NHL continue to act oblivious to this truth?
As for player safety, we just watched a nationally-televised game where a star player (Weber) rammed another star player (Zetterberg) head first into the glass because he was mad about getting a glancing blow in the back.
It's time that the league practiced what it was preaching.
Stick with SBNation.com for full coverage of the Red Wings vs. Predators series. For more from the Detroit perspective, check in with SB Nation Detroit and Winging It In Motown.