Have we mentioned that the Toronto Maple Leafs next face the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 3? Because we have to let you know about that right away, right? And if you haven’t heard it already from us, chances are any number of outlets has already breathlessly relayed this piece of news to you.
Because we want fireworks, dammit. And if something really unfortunate happens on that night, well, in the words of Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, boys will be boys. And those who love this sort of garbage will be the first to cluck their tongues in judgment and express that there is no place for this in the game, when really there is. But, hey, what could possibly go wrong? It’s not as though a Vancouver Canucks team hell bent on revenge has ever, ever seen things go sideways ever before, right?
Yup, boys will be boys. And now one of those boys, who just happens to be the Canucks best player, is on the injured list as a result of a fight. Jannik Hansen took it upon himself to fight Nazem Kadri after the latter, launched himself into Canucks’ forward Daniel Sedin with a blind side hit that is perfectly legal according to NHL rules because the principal point of contact was not Sedin’s head. The way the league saw it, there are no rules that punish that kind of hit if contact is not made to the head, so they saw no basis for further discipline. So there’s no way you can pin this on the Department of Player Safety. If the league doesn’t want to see these kinds of hits, it could always, you know, maybe make a rule that doesn’t allow them but we all know that if it does that, next thing you know the game is going to devolve into 4-on-4 ringette.
So after Hansen took it upon himself to fight an opponent over what was ultimately a clean hit – because The Code tells him he has to do that – he gets hurt and is out of the lineup. It's not clear yet whether he was actually injured on the hit from Morgan Rielly or in the fight, but we do know he was healthy enough to fight Kadri in the first place. Then his fight leads to, in no particular order, a Federal League sequence that sees: Alex Burrows spearing Morgan Rielly; Matt Martin wanting to fight Derek Dorsett; Dorsett refusing; then Dorsett going after Leo Komarov, which in turn prompts Martin to go after Canucks’ 5-foot-10 rookie defenseman Troy Stecher, which motivates Ryan Miller to leave his crease to get involved, which leads to Frederik Andersen skating down the ice to join the melee and boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
Good thing hockey has those tough guys like Derek Dorsett and Matt Martin around to keep the peace out there. We can only imagine the level of craziness to which things would have descended if those guys weren’t out there doing all that valuable peacekeeping.
So if you’re trying to figure out how all this happened, here’s a thought. Why not instead take 15 sets of earbuds, put them in a blender for a minute, then try to untangle them? You’ll probably have an easier time doing that than trying to deconstruct where things went sideways on this one.
Let’s start with the league, an entity that seems to think that having the head as the principal point of contact is the only criterion on which to determine whether a hit was predatory. So was Kadri’s hit vicious and predatory and an exploitation of a vulnerable and unsuspecting opponent? Of course it was, but the Department of Player Safety can only go by what is in the NHL rulebook. And the rulebook doesn’t currently have any rules that make that kind of hit an illegal one.
And that’s where things start to unravel. Hanson, er, Hansen went after Kadri because he likely had no confidence that Kadri was going to be served any justice beyond the kind Hansen could mete out with his fists. And that led to the conga line of miscreant behavior that ultimately led to Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson yelling to anyone who would listen that, “Matt Martin’s (expletive) dead,” the next time the two teams play, which is, in case you haven’t already heard, is Dec. 3.
And if anything regrettable happens that night, the NHL cannot say it wasn’t warned. Carry on, then.