Clearly the NHL still doesn’t get it. They just don’t seem to give a you-know-what about player safety, head injuries, intent to injure or the kinds of plays that make them look like a laughing stock on a regular basis.
I would like to preface this rant by saying that I think Brendan Shanahan has done some decent work this year when it comes to getting the message out that hits to the head are a growing problem in the league.
However, where Mr. Shanahan and the rest of the league’s brass are falling woefully short is the idea that headshots “won’t be tolerated.” Not only are they being tolerated, but they’re becoming a league-wide joke that’s getting less and less funny.
The Vancouver Canucks are on their way OUT of the NHL Playoffs and to be fair – it’s not because they don’t have Daniel Sedin in the lineup. There’s no question it’s a big loss, but the Canucks problems run far deeper than their best player.
Having said that, the Chicago Blackhawks and defenceman Duncan Keith are still playing. You may recall that it was Keith’s blatant, embarrassing and unnecessary cheap shot elbow to Sedin’s head which knocked him out of the post-season party.
Well, Keith is not only still playing – but he continues to play an integral role in the Hawks chances this summer – like Sedin WOULD have been doing for the Canucks.
How about Shea Weber repeatedly pounding Henrik Zetterberg’s coconut into the glass? Surely that is deserving of a few games, right? Nope. He got fined.
In the Rangers/Senators series – who knew there was bad blood between these two squads?
Either way – there’s plenty of it now. After Brian Boyle landed a bunch of punches to the head of Erik Karlsson (no fine OR suspension) – Matt Carkner took matters into his own hands and jumped Boyle to return the favour. He got a game suspension.
On the other end of the spectrum, Carl Hagelin decided to stuff Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson’s mug with his elbow and will serve a 3-gamer.
Even normally mild-mannered Chris Phillips got into the act and drilled Ryan Callahan’s head into the glass. He at least got a penalty – but nothing further.
And of course there is the EXTREMELY ill-will that has reached a fever pitch in the battle of Pennsylvania between the Flyers and Penguins. Take your pick of cheap shots in this series – the latest of which was Arron Asham’s cross check to the face of Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. Even Sid the Kid has joined the mix telling reporters not only does he “not like” Jakub Voracek – he doesn’t like anyone on the Flyers roster.
Granted, some of this horseplay can be chalked up as “playoff hockey” or the kinds of things that happen when teams play each other every second night for 2 weeks. What cannot be denied is the following. The blatant disregard that players have for the safety of those around them is palpable.
On March 14th, 2011 I blogged about how bad things in the NHL were at the time- in relation to the fact that Sidney Crosby might never play again. I suggested at the time that if the league REALLY wanted to eliminate head shots, they could, and I still firmly believe that.
If you start suspending guys for 20 or 30 games for hits to the head – the players WILL adjust.
But, it’s pretty obvious that the league still doesn’t care enough to do what it takes.
That said – enjoy the playoffs. Here’s hoping that there are enough players left by the time the Finals roll around.
Have a day and “Keep ‘yer head up kid”