After watching the first four games of the NHL season, well, the Oilers first four games, I'm sorry to report that as far as hitting in the regular season goes... Prognosis Negative. In four games I've seen exactly one, ONE hit. Detroit defenceman Somebody-or-other sorta pushed Sam Gagner backwards as he was skating in front of him. This didn't stop the FSN Detroit play by play guy from expounding on the "huge" "hit" laid out on "Hemsky". They showed the replay fifteen times and the guy was still saying Hemsky. You could see Gagner's name on his sweater for heaven's sake! I digress...
The complete lack of hitting has been responsible for the Oilers lacklustre performance in the past two games. It's a rare occasion to play dump and chase and win possession just by skating at the puck and not at least bumping anyone. I vote for calling it dump, bump and chase. Also, as my BFF DJ Luigi said recently, you can't properly forecheck without laying any body down. I believe I paraphrased that, because "laying any body down" sorta makes it seem like he was coming onto me, and I don't think he was. Point being, as he said and I agree, I'm sick of seeing Penner charge into the zone and love tap the defenceman with the puck. Isn't he supposed to be a big bruiser? He is great at using his body to maintain possession but I've not seen him hit a single player, make them hear footsteps (which are louder when wearing skates), force mistakes! I'm looking greatly forward to seeing Penner step up and be the power forward he's been billed as. Standing in front of the net ineffectually does not count.
And yet I'm not panicking here, the Oilers looked pretty bad the last two games. Again, I steal from my friend, "They looked like when you go to the bathroom and forget to pause NHL 08 and you come back and the computers been having their way with you." But somehow, only losing 2-0 against one of the best goaltenders in the league doesn't sting so bad. Considering all the chances they had my worries are alleviated in so far as our goaltending is concerned. Last year Roli started the season out great as well, I remember Kelly Hrudey showing a replay of a save and saying that Roli's glove hand was the best in the division, even better than Kippers! The fact no one in the studio agreed is not the point. He looked good. And this year with Garon playing well behind him I'm not worried that burnout will be a factor the way it was last year. So, y'know, we got that going for us... which is good.
I digress again! Man, you start out trying to write a post about the state of hitting in today's NHL and you wind up writing about your own team's recent woes. Bah!
In the first four games, I've seen one hit. That's counting both teams. Its the reason Raffi Torres is stinking, the reason Penner's not as involved, one of the reason's our defence is having so many troubles (the defencemen being the other reasons). It's got me wondering if it has anything to do with the two big hits in the preseason. If the needle's swung too far the other way now, where player's are "respecting" each other to the point of playing bullfighter defence (ole!) and never finishing checks because what if their head is down? What if they turn into the check? What if you get sent down to the minors with a career long suspension? Case in point, Derek Boogard didn't injure a single Oilers player last night. I didn't even see him hit someone! That's why he wasn't out there much. The Wild had the game in hand pretty much from the start, there's no way he was as bad a liabilty as the Oilers PP was. And yet, he wasn't out there running ruffshod over a tender, gentle, miniscule, baby bird crop of Oil youngsters, softening them up for the next 7 games they'll play againts each other this season.
So what. Right? I guess its better that these players don't have to worry about having their heads taken off. Yeah, a big open ice hit is fun to see, in a slow motion car crash or any episode of Jackass kinda way, but is it really worth it? I put forth that it is! Hits are important! We're constantly making rule changes and adding perks and removing danger for these guys who are making millions of dollars for playing a game! The stakes should be that high! Gone are the low salaries, but gone too are any of the bummers of the job! No more busrides and per diems, no! Chartered private planes, the best hotels, catered foods. Optional pre game skates! More offensive zone to play in! The fanciest dressing room in the league! Free parking at the coliseum! Smaller goalie equipment, but extra pads for everyone else! More referee's so no one gives you a boo boo behind the play! No high sticking, no elbowing, no charging, no crescent kicking with the blade out, no boarding, no checking from behind. So, have millions of dollars, free food, more days off than on, summer off IF YOU'RE CRAPPY!, and we'll do our best to make the job as cushy as possible, k?
That's just my opinion. Well, I'm off! Late for an appointment with my therapist!
Thursday, October 11