Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Saturday the 15-game suspension given to Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton by the NHL is a "strong message" that could deter other players from similar actions.
Thornton was suspended Saturday by the NHL Department of Player Safety "for punching an unsuspecting opponent, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, and causing a serious injury ..." in a game Dec. 7.
Penguins forward James Neal on Monday was suspended five games for kneeing Bruins forward Brad Marchand moments before the incident between Thornton and Orpik.
"The League made a ruling on James Neal and the play that we think we want out of the game, and I think the same thing about Shawn Thornton," Bylsma said in quotes provided by the Penguins. "I think [he's] a pretty honest hockey player who made a mistake, and [the League] made a ruling I think says volumes about getting that kind of play out of the game."
Asked if he thought the 15-game length had a deterrent value, Bylsma said, "I think it's a pretty strong message."
Penguins GM Ray Shero addressed the media prior to their game at the Detroit Red Wings.
"I honestly don't think it's my position to say whether it's fair or not," Shero said. "I think the message was sent by Brendan Shanahan that, what I saw, that that's the longest suspension he's given out in the regular season, so I guess that is a message being sent. As to whether it's too long, long enough, it's not for me to say."
"We don't see these types of plays very often, luckily," Shero added, addressing a possible deterrent.
Thornton, who has not played in the three games since the incident, released a statement through the Bruins before their game Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. He has 48 hours to appeal per the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"I am aware of today's ruling by the NHL Department of Player Safety," he said. "I will be consulting with the Bruins, my representation and the NHLPA about next steps, and will be in a position to address the matter publicly after speaking with those parties. Until then I will have no further comment."
Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli said, "We respect the process including the ability to attend and present our case in person. At this time, we will decline comment until the process is complete and Shawn has exhausted all rights available to him."
Shero said it is time to move on.
"It's too bad with Brooks getting hurt, obviously, but at the same time, Shawn Thornton, he has been a player throughout his career, through the minors and NHL I believe has been an honest player; he's never been suspended before, plays a tough role, and I don't think what happened is what he intended to happen, I don't believe that," Shero said. "But those were the consequences and he has to live with, obviously, what the League says is appropriate in terms of a suspension."
Orpik is on injured reserve with a concussion.
"Brooks skated yesterday, very lightly, on his own, with no other teammates," Bylsma said. "It was strictly just to be active. It wasn't because he lacked symptoms, or he's progressing down the road. It was just a light exercise; it doesn't mean he's symptom-free at this point in time."