RALEIGH, N.C. - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was outspoken last week, condemning the Flyers and Ray Emery's actions against the Capitals. He said it's not the way the game is played anymore.
Yesterday, NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan took it one step further.
"I hate what Ray Emery did," Shanahan told Rogers Sportsnet's Hockey Central at Noon show. "I don't like it. I wouldn't like it if I were a teammate of his, I wouldn't like if it I were an opponent of his."
Yet, Shanahan admitted that he could not give Emery a suspension for skating down the ice and raining blows on the head of unwilling combatant Braden Holtby, Washington's goaltender, during a melee between the teams.
"It's not a decision I can make on a Saturday night because I just don't like something," Shanahan said. "I have to follow the rule book."
He then laid the onus at the feet of the NHL's 30 general managers to change the rules. Surely, debate will be sparked on Nov. 12 when the GMs will convene in Toronto for meetings, one day after Fred Shero is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I'm not defending this one bit. I hated what I saw," Shanahan said. "I think, more importantly, if the rest of the caretakers of our game, the general managers, don't like it, it's important for them to say it's not properly addressed in the rule book. I don't think it is. I think this is an opportunity to make even a bigger change.
"If they approve it, they will pass it to the competition committee; they need to approve it, it will go back to our GMs and then our board of governors."
It's important to note that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who already has said he does not take issue with his team's actions, will be a member of that group.
And Flyers chairman Ed Snider is still a member of the seven-person NHL competition committee, which would need to approve any change recommended by the GMs.
Also on the committee: Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, Nashville GM David Poile and St. Louis forward David Backes. It is unclear who will replace NHLPA representative Chris Campoli, who is playing overseas, and former Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, since they are no longer at their posts.
It is very unlikely a rule change would be instituted during the season. The Winnipeg Free Press reported Monday, though, that a proposed "Emery Rule'' would likely be discussed in Toronto next week to deter goaltenders from fighting. A supposed 10-game ban could automatically be handed out to goaltenders crossing the red line to fight, similar to how an automatic 10-game suspension is levied to any player who leaves the bench to join an ongoing altercation.
"If this is going to be the new standard for suspension, then we have to go back and include then a lot of other occasions. We see this more than you think," Shanahan said. "We've suspended one player for the aggressor penalty. I think this fell under the aggressor category when you read the rule.
"I think when you look at the Matt Carkner suspension for aggressor, it's much worse. He suckers a guy twice in the face, then punches him several times when he's done. If you look at the two [Carkner and Emery] of them and line them up, it's not the same."
It is interesting to note that Shanahan said Carkner, of the Ottawa Senators, was suspended in April 2012 for violating Rule 46.2, the "aggressor" rule. It cost Carkner one playoff game.
It is also the rule that strangely limits Shanahan from suspending Emery. It is spelled out in the rule that players may attack an "unwilling combatant" in a fight up to two times in one regular season.
"He did do something against the rules," Shanahan said, referring to Emery's 29 penalty minutes and game misconduct. "He did break the rules."
Carkner's suspension came before the expiration of the last collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA, forged during the 113-day lockout last season, allowed for greater appeal power by the NHLPA against supplementary discipline of players.
What remains a little murky in this situation is how much sway the possibility of a looming NHLPA appeal had in the Department of Player Safety's decision-making process when it comes to Emery. What basis would the NHL have in suspending Emery if his actions are protected in the rule book? Players may appeal suspensions of six games or more to Bettman and then a neutral arbitrator.
For his part, Emery remained quiet after the Flyers' morning skate yesterday in Carolina. In speaking to reporters, he declined to comment on any possible rule changes.
"That's not my job, which is to stop pucks," Emery said. "If they change the rules, they change the rules."
The rule regarding Emery's fight
The aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant.
A player must be deemed the aggressor when he has clearly won the fight but he continues throwing and landing punches in a further attempt to inflict punishment and/or injury on his opponent who is no longer in a position to defend himself.
A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed a major penalty for fighting and a game misconduct.
A player who is deemed to be the aggressor of an altercation will have this recorded as an aggressor of an altercation for statistical and suspension purposes.
A player who is deemed to be both the instigator and aggressor of an altercation shall be assessed an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct (instigator) and a game misconduct penalty (aggressor).
46.17 FINES AND SUSPENSIONS
Aggressor — A player who is deemed to be the aggressor for the third time in one Regular season shall be suspended for the next two regular season games of his team.
For the fourth aggressor penalty in the same Regular season, the player will be suspended for the next four games of his team. For the fifth aggressor penalty in the same Regular season, the player will be suspended for the next six games of his team.
During the Play-offs, any player who is deemed to be the aggressor for the second time shall be suspended automatically for the next Play-off game of his team. For each subsequent aggressor violation during the Play-offs, the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.
Prior to the commencement of each Stanley Cup Final, a player or goalkeeper will have his current aggressor violations removed from his current playoff record. They will remain part of his historical record.