One of the things the NHLPA and Ownership desperately need to come together on is a reasonable system for suspensions and fines. Currently Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety can decide to suspend a player for a hundred games with no real recourse for the player, the players association or the team that player is a member of. Not only is there no written and unambiguous system for fines and suspensions there is no sane appeal system.
As we’re currently experiencing with the Raffi Torres suspension, there is no deadline on the reviewer to enact their decision. Worse the appeals court as it were is the person who put Shanahan in place. So Bettman is put in the position of either undermining his employee(s) or looking ineffectual. Further either call he makes is a judgement call. As it is, he can simply drag out announcing any finding until after the suspension is served in full. Without a firm time limit no one even has firm ground to stand on to say he’s taking too long.
Any arbitrator should not be an NHL employee. It should certainly not be decided by any one person. Either a group of three players or player representatives together with a retired official as tie braking judge and three general managers or team governors should be involved, or possibly an entirely independent arbitrator.
But before there can be an appeals system, there needs to be a valid process for discipline. Currently, as evidenced by the spaghetti thrown at the wall approach we’ve seen this year there is no system, and we don’t even know what’s a capital offense and what’s jay walking. As inadequate as many feel some of the punishments spelled out in the NHL rulebook are, at least they exist.
The jockeying for position at the negotiations has already begun. It would be nice if both sides remembered this minor issue while trying to steer the league into the future. When you can’t get through a single playoff series without one or both teams and their fanbases, not to mention the neutral fans questioning the system, its efficacy, and the quality of it’s agents on a daily basis there is more than a problem, you have a threat to the long term health of the league.