Over the course of the season, every NHL team is going to have its fair share of injuries. Some teams will get even more than their fair share. That's just the way hockey goes.
It is a fast paced sport on a small playing surface, with big bodies, vulcanized rubber, and 12 pairs of blades going every which direction during a game. At this point in the season, there were 106 players - more than one-seventh of the NHL's work force - listed as injured. In short, injuries are expected to happen, and they can't all be prevented.
If that's the case, shouldn't the league constantly be working to help prevent as many injuries as they can? There may not be anything that can be done about accidental collisions, or injuries sustained from blocking shots, but something can be done about the reckless plays that players are involved in.
That's the case that David Shoalts makes as he tries to figure out how best to reduce injuries.
Now, simple or accidental collisions occur at high speed and result in serious injuries or close calls. Typical of a recent string of such hits was one in which New York Rangers centre Brad Richards was fortunate to escape a serious injury when a push from Buffalo Sabres centre Patrick Kaleta sent him face-first into the boards. Ditto for Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh when he was tumbled into the boards from behind by Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, who should know a thing or two about dangerous hits after being driven into a post by Zdeno Chara a few years ago.
The hit by Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk that put Pittsburgh Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin out of the game late in the third period Saturday is not part of this discussion, however. It was a good, hard, but clean body check.
"What it is, is recklessness," said Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "In reality, I haven't seen anybody really drill somebody from behind. It's kind of more, oops, and catch a player off-balance or they use their hip."
The real question, that does not necessarily have an easy answer, is how to deal with this recklessness so that the number of injuries produced this way are limited. About the only step remaining at this point would be to start suspending players for that reckless behavior. Which would be far different from the standards set right now.
If you look at the Hanzal hit on Benn, odds are, at worst, Hazal will get no more than a three game suspension. If Benn (who will be reevaluated today) has a concussion, that suspension will not be very much in comparison to the number of games that Benn could miss while he is on injured reserve.
I have always been of the belief that players suspended should miss more games than those that they injured. So, in this case, if Hazal were suspended for three games, he would miss however many Benn did, plus an additional three. That would likely reduce the number of dangerous hits pretty quickly.
Or, another possibility is to start handing out suspensions more often. It was something that was tried when Shanahan first took over at his position, dealing out far more suspensions than his predecessor. It was not received very well after the first couple of months.
In fact, neither of those are really an easy answer. Fans, players,coaches, and owners would not like seeing more payers suspended. It reduces the quality of the game by taking some of the star players out for longer than they would be now. Suspensions are also a very subjective issue, with no injury really happening in the exact same way. While it is easy to talk about what can be done, the fact of the matter is, that almost any change would be incredibly difficult to implement without the approval of all sides of the argument agreeing on it.
What do you think? Should things stay the way they are? If not, how would you improve them?
Coming up in the daily links: Some more thoughts on the halfway point of the season, an own goal that makes Trevor Daley's seem downright innocent, and a goal that is as close to buzzer beater as you can get.
- Mark Stepneski has his mid-season report, complete with all of his normal stats. In the second quarter, the Stars actually drew more penalties than they took. I don't think that's happened in a long time. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Jamie Benn is going to be reassessed today, so we should find out the extent of his injuries. We should also know whether or not Hanzal is going to be suspended. [Dallas News]
- The Blackhawks lost again last night in a crazy one against the Oilers. Hopefully their point streak hangover will continue at least through the weekend. [NHL]
- If you like illustrated guide pictures (and who doesn't?), here is one on the top five points streaks in the history of the NHL. The other four all made it to the Stanley Cup finals - will Chicago get there too? [Puck Daddy]
- Sidney Crosby thinks that the Maple Leafs are a playoff team this year. While that might be the case, I don't think I'll believe it until after game 48. [Globe and Mail]
- The Blue Jackets have been surging lately. And by surging, I mean they beat the Detroit Red Wings. Twice. [ESPN]
- Habs player Francis Bouillon decided to end his own goalie's shutout bid by scoring on him late in the 3rd period the other night. Luckily, it didn't cost them the game. For Stars fans who hate on Daley for always having a puck go in off his skate, you should click over and watch this. It will put things into perspective. [Puck Daddy]
- For your video of the day, we have Colorado Avs defeating the Sharks with about .2 seconds remaining in OT. It's hard to cut it much closer than that.