Oct 102010

If you happened to catch the Canucks game (and why the heck would you have missed it), you saw Alex Edler demolish Kyle Clifford in the neutral zone. You also saw that Edler got himself a minor penalty for the hit and further to this, you got to see yours truly defend the call on Twitter. Now before you call for me to be drawn and quartered, take a look at the hit again (although you can disregard the Kings commentary).

When it first happens, the hit looks nice and clean regardless of Rule 48. Clifford has his head down and Edler simply skates through him. But when you look at the replay, you can see that Edler braced himself for the contact by raising his arm and leans into Clifford’s skating path prior to making contact. Old skool rules would classify this as a hit and I don’t argue, but new skool rules don’t and this is why:

48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted. – source

Although you can argue that there was no intent by Edler to make contact with Clifford’s head, it’s that fancy and/or that states it’s still a foul if the opponents head is the principle point of contact. Based on what I saw, that seems to be the case.

It gets even more interesting when you read the following:

48.2 Minor Penalty – There is no provision for a minor penalty for this rule.

48.3 Major Penalty – For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed (see 48.4).

48.4 Game Misconduct – An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.

48.5 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. – source

Based on the letter of the law, had Edler been penalized for a hit to the head, he would have received a five minute major and early shower – yet in what I believe was an effective use of game management, the referees instead gave him the minor for elbowing (where a provision for 2 minutes exists). This ensured that what could be seen as a “ticky tack” call wasn’t something that contributed to the outcome of the game. Clifford was fine, Edler served his time, and the game was resolved in the shootout.

All things being equal, I don’t believe this is the last we’ll see of this debate and in fact, I could see this rule work it’s way up to “skate in the blue paint” infamy. Players have always been told to skate with their heads up, to protect themselves, and in old time hockey to expect a hit like this to occur if you didn’t. I’m all for rules that protect a players health and hope I don’t see another hit like Matt Cooke’s for as long as I watch hockey. However, with the onus being shifted from the player laying out the hit to assume responsibility, I think we’re that much closer to seeing good solid contact being taken out of the sport.

And that’s just a bloomin’ shame.

Apr 172010

It’s well known that to get through the Western Conference is a test of endurance. It’s a physical affair and you don’t only have to beat your opponent on the score sheet but you have to physically out play them in order to win a series. For this reason we see the importance of blue-liners and the bottom six alike as the grit factor becomes (in some series, or on some nights) the deciding factor of a game.

The Canucks in game one not only dominated the play of the game but they out hit the Kings en route to an OT victory. The physical part of the game plays such an important role which a lot of people sometimes don’t realize. It affects the pace of the game, it has an impact on the smaller battles within the game and it has a big influence on the psyche of the team not only doing the hitting but the team being hit. In the case of the Canucks in game one, Edler was a derailed train that was hitting anything on skates wearing a crown. Edler’s play not only acts as something that amps up the team but it wears down a Kings team that in the case of game one, had no business being in such a close game. In what was Edler’s best game of the season his impact in the game due to his physical game was more than just his defensive play. When other players see how he’s playing the effect is contagious. The Canucks did a great job of feeding off of each other’s energy and they’re going to need it in game two tonight as well.

One of the Canucks goals as they advance through this playoffs should be to get into each series as fresh as possible. Sweeping ever series is not realistic and sometimes the extra days off aren’t ideal. The Canucks however need to come out of each game as the team that did the hitting, not the team that received the beat down. Later in the playoffs should they face a Chicago, a San Jose, or a Phoenix, they’re going to realize even more so than now that the grit game is a game within the game. If the Canucks can win the physical match-up most nights it’s going to have a long term benefit to them as the playoffs wind on. The loss of Mitchell to the grit game was huge, but should the Canucks go deep and Mitchell return his presence is not only going to fortify our blue line, it’s going to bring in a fresh pair of legs that’s going to play the way Edler did in game one, night in and night out.

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