The decision by Colin Campbell to step down as the NHL's chief disciplinarian represents the first step in a long overdue overhaul of the NHL disciplinary process. Campbell will stay on as senior vice president of hockey operations, but will cede the most controversial part of his duties - determining the length and severity of suspensions, assessing fines and also letting teams know what behaviour is not subject to supplementary discipline.
Criticism goes with the territory in Campbell's job, but he came under increased heat and scrutiny this year, in part because of a series of leaked e-mails involving his son Gregory, a forward with the Boston Bruins, that implied he was asking for favorable rulings from the rest of hockey operations. Campbell denied the charges and said he was just being a "hockey dad."
In my view, Campbell's integrity is unimpeachable, but eventually the optics of being the head of discipline in a league where his son had a prominent role this season became too difficult to ignore. Campbell recuses himself in any series involving Gregory and thus is at the Stanley Cup final as a spectator, leaving the disciplinary duties and video reviews to his staff - primarily Mike Murphy and Kris King.
The primary benefit of shifting duties in hockey operations is that it gives the NHL a chance to revamp the disciplinary process.
Campbell has long believed that there can be no one-size-fits-all standard of discipline because no two NHL plays are ever exactly alike - and that multiple factors, including a players' history of reckless play, must factor into any disciplinary decision.
Others disagree - and believe the system needs to be more narrowly codified, in the same way the ordinary judicial system has a known list of penalties for anyone who breaks the law. Some modified system that lays out more specific penalties for suspendable offences is likely to emerge during the revamp process. Former NHLer Brendan Shanahan, who joined hockey operations about a year ago, is expected to play a prominent role in the new disciplinary heirarchy that may also include some input from the NHL players association.