You can attack NHL Sheriff Brendan Shanahan for many different things, but you can no longer say he lacks the stones to suspend one of the NHLs stars at a pivotal point in the playoffs.
Thats about as gutsy as you can get.
Anybody within shouting distance of the Liberty Bell certainly had issues with Shanahan suspending Claude Giroux for his head shot on Dainius Zubrus, and there were even whispers of a league conspiracy against the Flyers. But it was clearly a suspendable offense with a clearly agitated Giroux taking out his frustrations on the nearest Devils skater at the most opportune moment.
Shanahan has endured some verbal barbs and critical daggers after failing to suspend Shea Weber or Evgeni Malkin for borderline plays earlier in the playoffs. The criticism was pretty clear: there is a superstar caste system in place for the NHL lawmakers and they wont lay down the superstar on hockeys favored sons.
But that argument is out the window now.
Shanahan ruled courageously and correctly in sitting Giroux out for a pivotal Game 5 that ultimately led to Philadelphias elimination at the hands of New Jersey. Giroux was in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy and still leads the playoff field with 17 points in 10 playoff games for the now eliminated Flyers.
Predictably the Flyers crumbled without their leader and best offensive player, and now theyll have an entire offseason to sharpen their arguments in Philly about how they got screwed royally by the league. But in truth this was Shanahan learning from going too easily on Weber earlier during the playoffs, and thats all anybody can really ask for.
Plenty of people will scream that Malkin or James Neal should have been strung up if Giroux was guilty of a suspendable offense, but hindsight is something the NHL Player Safety Department simply doesnt have.
I cant imagine what the @ replies read like in Shanahans NHL twitter account: Im outraged that Shanny wont suspend the superstars paired equally with Im outraged Shanny could suspend Giroux for a game and sentence the Flyers to playoff death. Never mind the fact that anyone in Philadelphia is letting Giroux off the hook for a poorly-timed action, Shanahan cant win the popularity battle while making difficult, correct decisions during these playoffs.