On the heels of the Good and the Bad, it is time for the third installment of my look at the NHL over the first 1/4 of the season. There have been a number of “ugly” incidents over the last month and a half of NHL hockey… Some involve the actual state of the game, and some are incidents from the actual games.
In an era where contact to the head is frowned upon, Milan Lucic‘s demolition of Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was a senseless play that could have been avoided, despite Lucic’s claims to the contrary. Take a look and judge for yourself:
Lucic, in my opinion, had more than enough time to avoid contact with the goalie and did not need to injure him. The ugliest part to me is that NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan didn’t impose any supplementary discipline on the hit and therefore the incident will not go on the player’s record. Shanahan was supposed to stick up for player safety, and he started out fairly heavy-handed but as the season has progressed he has pulled up on the reigns. Making players accountable for their actions and making them think twice before possibly injuring a fellow player unnecissarily was his mandate, and Shanahan has been inconsistent at best. After stiff pre-season suspensions earned him the nickname Sherriff Shanahan, he has eased off the trigger with letting the Lucic incident go unpunished. Add in the other non-suspensions of Wojtek Wolski (on Daniel Alfredsson) where the elbow clearly targeted the head and caused injury, the players continue to receive mixed messages.
Chris Pronger’s Eye Injury
It might be tough to feel sympathy for a player as nasty and villified as Chris Pronger, but you never want to see a player suffer an irreparable injury, especially around the eye area.
Pronger’s screams can be heard on the video as he obvioulsy feared the worst. The incident was eerily similar to the Bryan Berard incident a few years ago, which cost him most of the sight in his eye. Again, like the Berard incident, there will be calls for mandatory visors to be worn by all players, but Pronger himself indicated afterwards that he might not wear one for the rest of his career. He was lucky this time, and incidents like this are scary and thankfully don’t come along very often.
The “Soccer-ization” of the NHL
Perhaps the ugliest and most talked about incident of the young season was the embarassing stalemate between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov 8th.
The neutral zone trap and defensive hockey is certainly nothing new, but the team with the puck refusing to move it forward is a tactic that hasn’t been seen before. In the days that followed, there was much discussion about who was at fault and if there should be something done to stop the embarassing scene from happening again.
Neither team really did anything against the rules, and Philadelphia was making a point in Tampa’s own rink that their fans paid to see boring 1-3-1 hockey. However, in my opinion, the onus should be on the team with the puck to try to attack. Finding a way to beat a trap is difficult but not impossible.
Tampa coach Guy Boucher said his team was playing the way they thought they had to in order to beat an explosive Flyers team. But they have some of the most offensively gifted talent in the league and it is a shame that it has come to this type of chicanery that puts a black eye on the league.
I don’t know if there is a solution, but given the outrage from around the league, I sincerely doubt it will happen again.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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