There is at least one dangerous play that has no place in the game of hockey. It’s a sneaky, cowardly cheap shot that injures players and can end a career. It has absolutely nothing to do with playing tough, gritty hockey. The sooner the NHL figures that out and does something to eliminate it, the better.
It’s the slewfoot, and unless my eyes are fooling me I’ve seen more of them this season than I remember noticing in any other season I can recall. The latest came in the first period of Sunday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre when serial slew-footer Andrew Shaw of the Habs kicked Connor McDavid’s left skate out from under him. It’s here.
Not quite sure if the play that left McDavid flat on his back and in pain Sunday was intentional on Shaw’s part? How about this one, where Shaw takes down Johan Larsson of the Buffalo Sabres? Or how about this sneaky bit of business from 2013 against Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings while Shaw was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks? Oopsy.
Then, there’s Calgary’s Matt Tkachuk who kicked Brandon Davidson’s feet out from under him in Edmonton’s home-opener at Rogers Place, knocking Davidson out of the line-up. Tkachuk did the same thing to former Oiler Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs here. Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, another serial slew-footer, took down Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall here and does the same to Anton Stralman here. Marchand, on a contract with a $6.125 AAV, was fined $10,000. That’ll show him.
POP GOES THE WEASEL
I love tough hockey. Always have. Big hits, shoulder-to-shoulder, not shoulder-to-head. I still enjoy watching a scrap between two willing combatants, even though we know enough about potential damage to the brain from repeated concussions to understand that guys who bare-knuckle fight are playing with fire. This slewfoot stuff, though, is another issue. It’s a weasel play. It’s made even more sickening by the “What, me? What did I do?” crap that often accompanies it. Weasels won’t even own it.
There’s been three plays that have stuck in my head as particularly appalling for decades now. Plays that made me jump out of my seat and yell at the TV. One is the gloved punch from behind by Matt Johnson that marked the beginning of the end of the career of Jeff Beukeboom. That’s here. The second is Dale Hunter’s blindside of Pierre Turgeon. That’s here. Marty McSorley’s stick attack on an unsuspecting Donald Brashear is right up there, too.
What is particularly disturbing about those three plays – there are other cases that come to mind – is that in every instance the victim didn’t see the attack coming and had no chance to defend themselves. If that’s not the epitome of malice and intent to injure, I don’t know what is. The slewfoot is more subtle and less dramatic, but the crux of it, a dangerous play made against an opponent who doesn’t see it coming, is every bit as heinous.
What if McDavid broke his ankle, tore his Achilles, ripped up a knee or sustained a head injury when Shaw clipped him? What if he didn’t get up and shake it off? Same with Kronwall and with Stralman and the other players we’ve seen clipped from behind when they were unaware. Does the NHL Department of Player Safety think that pocket-change fines of $10,000 and handing out two-game suspensions will take the slewfoot out of the game?
It’s not even a matter of protecting marquee players like McDavid with this slewfoot thing. It shouldn’t matter, even a little bit, who the victim and who the perpetrator is when it comes to a play like this. It’s a dirty, dangerous, cowardly play that can and has caused injuries and will sooner or later end a career. It has no place in the game of hockey and the NHL needs to address it now.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- I’d like to hear from our readers where you think McDavid fits in the Top 100 Oilers list that we’ve been running. We’re publishing players 29, 30, 31 and 32 this month and I already have McDavid slotted in above this group. Right now, with the Oilers on a break, where do you have him? I don’t have McDavid in the top-10 as of now, based on the criteria I spelled out before the series began, but he’s top-20 for me.
- With their 1-0 shootout win in Montreal, the Oilers are 29-18-8 for 66 points through 55 games for a points-percentage of .600. That’s the best percentage the Oilers have had since they finished with .619 in 1987-88, when they claimed their fourth Stanley Cup. With 27 games to go, that .600 stands as the eighth-best percentage in franchise history.
- Interesting piece today on how former Oilers are faring while playing over in the KHL here. Showman extraordinaire Linus Omark is having himself a terrific season.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE