Off the Top of My Head

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
1 year ago
We’re long past the days when NHL coaches would stroll to the end of the bench and give their hired hammer a tap on the shoulder or a nod when they saw something they didn’t like on the ice. The game doesn’t allow for that kind of old-school retribution now and, all in all, that’s probably a good thing.
What we get instead is what we saw Wednesday when Alex Edler of the Los Angeles Kings stuck out his knee on Connor McDavid and sent the Edmonton Oilers captain to the ice. Luckily, McDavid got up and got back in the game. Zach Hyman, the recipient of an Edler knee in April 2021 while with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was not as lucky. Edler, then with Vancouver, put Hyman on the shelf for two months and was suspended for two games.
With no designated fixer, Darnell Nurse went at Edler as linesmen Shandor Alphonso and Kyle Flemington jumped in to break things up. In the end, the double-minor Nurse got for roughing made the minors for kneeing and roughing Edler got from Jon McIsaac and Eric Furlatt a wash. The bottom line is Edler didn’t have to pay the price – during a game the Kings won 3-1 or after it as there was no supplemental discipline. That’s a problem.
McDavid, who scored the 4-3 OT winner against the Vegas Golden Knights last night, came away unscathed this time. My complaint with how this played out is simple. If the NHL wants to take retribution out of the equation, fine, but the zebras have to enforce the rules in such a way that dangerous plays like kneeing or hitting from behind aren’t treated like minor infractions. That’s what happened here.


When somebody as easy-going and affable as Hyman has been in virtually every interview I’ve seen since he arrived in Edmonton is as sour as he looked in a walk-off interview with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe during the second intermission, there’s a problem. 
“I didn’t like the hit,” Hyman said. “Good on Nursey for jumping in there and sticking up for Connor. One of those plays where he beats a defenceman, and he sticks a knee out and dangerous play. I mentioned it earlier it happened to me, same play, same guy. So obviously not happy with it. Don’t know if he’s doing it intentionally or whatnot, but you just can’t do that.”
“I mean, if I kneed someone like that, I expected the other team to react the same way, so it is what it is,” Nurse said. “. . . we played an emotional game. You want to see that out of the team. You want to stand up for each other out there.”


Nov 8, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
With Jack Campbell struggling to get his game sorted, coach Jay Woodcroft has been leaning on Stuart Skinner. He gave Skinner the crease against Florida nine days ago and against the Kings. He made 31 saves vs. Vegas and got the win last night in his third straight start.
Campbell last got the crease on Nov. 10 in Carolina, allowing a career-high seven goals on 32 shots in a 7-2 loss. At 6-4-0 with a 4.27 GAA and a .873 saves percentage in his first 10 starts, it’s obvious Campbell needs some time to get his game straightened out. As an aside, Campbell’s teammates might want to consider doing likewise. The Oilers have been slow starters. They’ve been bleeding shots against. The PK has been abysmal.
“We’re allowing him that space to work at his game,” Woodcroft said. “I think, and this is just me, my belief is confidence is earned and it’s earned through your preparation, it’s earned through your work in practice. When you start to feel good about yourself, I think it translates into games.
“I think Jack, you know, is similar to our team right now. He’s looking for a level of consistency in his game. He has the support of his teammates, the support of his coaching staff. We know that there is more there. He’s working his way toward building some consistency in his game.”


For a guy who bangs like Edler does, he sure hasn’t answered the bell in an NHL career approaching 990 games. Edler has more than 700 PIM but has had just one major for fighting. He got in a scrap with Wayne Simmonds after his hit on Hyman. It didn’t go well.


Jesse Puljujarvi had one assist (on an empty-net goal) through seven games playing alongside McDavid when Woodcroft changed up his lines at practice Friday in preparation for Vegas. Going into the Vegas game, Puljujarvi had 1-2-3 in 17 games.

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