The NHL has clearly made their "consistent" statement.
They didn't particularly like Matt Cooke's cheap shot to the head of Marc Savard. Cooke is a "habitual line-stepper," in the parlance of Charlie Murphy, and a menace on the ice.
He's already been slapped by the league numerous times for head-hunting and intentionally attempting to injure fellow players throughout his checkered NHL career.
The league is even now working to outlaw the blindside head check -- from behind or lateral positions -- that pretty much defined what went down in the final five minutes against the Penguins and left Savard unconscious on the ice.
On Wednesday afternoon at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., the league's general managers finalized a unanimous proposal that would outlaw headshot hits just like the one Cooke authored on Savard. It will give referees the latitude to assess minor or major penalties on blows to the head that are considered blindside shots.
It's obviously still up to the competition committee to approve the GMs' proposal, but there's a pretty good chance the "blindside rule" will in effect next season.
But the NHL made a ridiculous statement by handing no penalty to Cooke after he took down a player with 10 times the skill and star-power.
No suspension for Cooke means no justice for anyone.
The fact that Cooke's deplorable action took place with only weeks to go until the playoffs made it even more egregious.
By hiding behind interpretations and subsets of rules, rather than finding a way to suspend Cooke, they've basically condoned his actions for the remainder of this season.
Two things to keep in mind despite the NHL's interpretation of the hit amid NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell's dogged viewing of the hit via replay with eight of his league cronies while deciding on a ruling: Cooke wasn't finishing a check, and there was no effort to make any hit on Savard aside from raising his left arm straight at Savard's head as he snuck in from the blindside.
There was a clear intent to injure as a result of the hit on Savard, and hiding behind mealy-mouthed interpretations of rules is despicable for the NHL's sheriff. It's going to do much of what it would do in regular society, which is to create a lawless atmosphere with injurious frontier justice.
The league has made a statement loud and clear to the NHL players for the rest of this season: Get in your dirty hits to the head now, boys, because next season it's going to be outlawed.
What kind of message is that for the rest of the season in a fast-paced, violent league where someone could be crippled -- or even killed -- if such actions continue?
No suspension for Cooke means players should feel free this season to make like Tito Santana flying off the wrestling ring ropes and slam their plastic shoulder pads as violently as possible into the vulnerable, unprotected brains of fellow players.
If you can disable Sidney Crosby of Evgeni Malkin prior to a big playoff series against that team, then go for it while you still have the chance provided you're just "finishing your check" with a shoulder to the head..
The aftermath of Cooke's actions – and the NHL's unwillingness to step in and enforce the spirit of their rules that prevent players from malicious "intent to injure" infractions against fellow players – is something the league should be red-faced and ashamed of.
But I get the sense that Campbell, in his NHL ivory tower, would beg to differ.
Cooke's vicious blindside shot has left Savard fighting pounding headaches and recoiling from bright lights while he attempts to slowly recover from a Grade 2 concussion.
The offensively-challenged Bruins are now completely crippled from an offensive standpoint, and linger as sitting ducks for the Penguins in a potential first-round matchup against Pittsburgh.
But that couldn't have possibly been Cooke's premeditated intention, right?
The basic point is this: Cooke has made a career out of intentionally trying to injure players and flirting with the "edge" that few players flirt with in a league that's become increasingly manners-driven.
The league allowing Cooke to continue this activity will only embolden others to attack superstar players in the remaining few weeks. It will certainly open the door for all kinds of Wild West frontier justice when the Penguins travel to Boston and play the Bruins March 18.
Would anybody be surprised if Crosby or Malkin were eating out of a straw or counting birdies dancing around over their heads after that particular 60 minutes of hockey at a sure-to-be-seething TD Garden?
What will the hue and cry be from Pittsburgh – and from the rest of the NHL be for that matter – should the face of the NHL be leveled by a "clean" shoulder to the noggin' courtesy of Steve Begin or Shawn Thornton?
If the blame is placed in the proper direction, it'll drop right in the lap of the NHL. Failing to protect one of their superstar players simply opened the door to disaster.
When the league fails to mete out justice for a misdeed, then it falls on the players to police themselves in ugly fashion.
It's exactly the kind of thing that could devolve into an ugly situation next week in Boston.
Colin Campbell has nobody to blame but himself if and when it does because he needs to be "consistent." Apparently consistency is more important than the safety of the players in Campbell's book.
Consistency will allow the NHL's "policeman" to sleepwalk through all the "finishing his check" rhetoric he can muster for at least one more time this season. And then of course will come the flawed comparison between the Mike Richards/David Booth incident earlier this season and Cooke/Savard last weekend.
Things could get mighty ugly in the ensuing weeks as the last call of "clean" shoulder-to-head hits in the NHL before the cheap-shot bar closes out. This was Campbell's best chance to nip it in the bud now with light finally dawning on the league's marble head for next season
But instead the hard-headed Campbell and the NHL chose the easy way out. The league has literally stamped a bulls-eye on the head of every prominent NHL player with even one instant of vulnerability over the next five weeks.
It amounts to another stellar job executed by Campbell and his cronies in the NHL offices known for mystifying decisions and short-sighted tendencies. One just has to hope Campbell lucks out and avoids any more brain-damaged marquee players getting wheeled out of their arenas on a stretcher.