This train is never late. The NHL had a good night last night. The playoffs have begun, and it’s hard to find a bad matchup anywhere (although Flames Stars and Avs Predators should be nothing more than ritual kills). And although there were only two competitive games from the four last night (the Canes pulled away late), the goal-heavy trends of the latter part of the regular season continued as no game featured fewer than four goals. The leaves plastering the flash was a big story, even if the game was a laugh. There were great highlights like Connor McDavid is lacing through the Kings right now to score to relieve his boredom or Teuvo Teravainen’s common snipe to give the canes some air to breathe or Jonathan Quick keeps the kings alive in the second half when the Oilers were really pushing (you might not put Teravainen’s goal in the same category, but Teuvo’s oil change is a highlight worth noting, and he’s my sweet little boy and he’s fucking you!).
But the dark passenger of the playoffs that never strays too far from the surface is that playoff time throws players completely off balance. And yet there seems to be no one who wants to curb this in order to focus on the highlights and the actually high level of the competition. The NHL Department of Player Safety smells more than the most starting angle obsessed racquet, and they are actively souring the game. Probably natural cause and effect when run by a former jerk, George Parros, who would die of exhaustion if he jumped into today’s game within five minutes.
The latest player to walk away scot-free from an essentially heinous act is Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon. Tell me what part of hockey camp do they teach kids this in?
This isn’t a hockey game. This has nothing to do with ice hockey. It’s just one pissed player boiling over because his team has been kicked in the butt eight times up to Sunday, attacking a player (without even looking at him) on a part of the body that isn’t protected. What if Pavel Buchnevich’s ankle bends differently? This couldn’t be a more naked attempt to hurt a player. We accept that hockey is a physical game, and it should be, but attempts to mutilate that are nothing more than attempts to mutilate should not be welcomed or accepted at all.
Spurgeon’s penalty? $5,000 fine. Jared Spurgeon’s salary? $7.5 million this year. That’s 0.06 percent of his salary. For you and me, that’s somewhere between $30 and $60. Sure, you might get annoyed if you lose this, but it’s not exactly going to change your behavior. Let’s say you don’t have to explain this discrepancy to your partner when you do the finances.
Certainly, Spurgeon’s status as a key player for the Wild, even their captain, played a role. Because, in general, the player safety department is reluctant to penalize someone a team might miss while cloaking it in past offenses and reputation. But really, who cares? How are you going to set a precedent and try to change the game for the better when you’re only willing to punish the obvious and insignificant?
Only partially relieving, it seems, Toronto’s Kyle Clifford (who’s been an ox for a decade) will receive a suspension for this blindside curmudgeon/Keith Lee impression on Tampa’s Ross Colton:
Again, this has nothing to do with hockey or being tough or trying to win a game. This is just an ogre doing what ogres do and taking advantage of an opponent who isn’t looking at them because, you know, they’re following the game. Still, one should probably not hold one’s breath away at Clifford for a suspension that would raise eyebrows.
The playoffs should be a theater for hockey’s best, and especially the speed at which these games are being played now only adds to the already coke-like excitement they bring. But as long as the NHL has to lug the Player Safety Department around like a stone of shame instead of forcing them to lead, the playoffs will continue to be a theater for the entire sport of hockey, with its stupid and unnecessary component front and back.