Canucks and Beyond

Pimp My Hockey Team

11/17/2007 at 3:56am EST

Jason Botchford at The Vancouver Province was impressed with the 6-2 win:

The Canucks started Friday’s game like they had just left the set of Pimp My Hockey Team.

Suddenly, all the nagging flaws, the worrisome blemishes and the inadequacies that had them mired in a mediocre start to the season were scrubbed clean.

In their place was a souped-up, turbo-charged team that looked like a sleek sports car—complete with tinted windows and halogen headlights. It was enough to blow the doors off a tired, unmotivated Minnesota Wild team before the Wild even got out of the blocks.

It was a great performance, but now for the not-so-fun stuff: Should someone get suspended? After a night of “pimping” a couple of guys might deserve some jail time.

Mattias Ohlund’s swing taking out Mikko Koivu’s ankle wasn’t pretty. Ohlund isn’t a dirty player by any stretch of the imagination, but that move can’t be judged as anything but intent to injure. As it was, he earned a 5-minute major and was tossed from the game for misconduct.

It was a reactive move by Ohlund, angered in the moment and simply reacting without thinking; he even looked shocked at his own actions immediately. But there’s no way retaliation can be tolerated in a game as fast and dangerous as hockey can be at the best of times.

I expect both Wild and Canucks fans will disagree with this as either too soft or too harsh, but to my mind he should draw a 1 or 2 game suspension.

Then there’s Marian Gaborik’s bad behavior in the second period.

After a series of frustrated exchanges between himself and Ryan Kesler all night, Gaborik finally lost his own temper and drove Kesler in the head with a hard elbow. He was mistakenly given a high-sticking penalty for his handiwork, but there’s no doubt that it was an intentional elbow to the head, delivered with all the force he could put behind it.

Like Ohlund, Gaborik isn’t typically a dirty player, but that was a dirty move. And with all the focus these days on the danger of dirty hits to the head—Kesler himself involved in a much more serious incident only weeks ago at the hands of Flyer Jesse Boulerice—Gaborik’s move was exactly the type of thing the league wants to crack down on.

The only question is whether the league has any intention of suspending a franchise player like Gaborik. I’m pretty sure if Derek Boogaard had delivered that elbow, there wouldn’t even be a question.

As it is, Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault said some words to the officials during the break, so we’ll see if it leads to a review by the league. But I’m guessing that it probably won’t.

In an ideal world, I think Gaborik and Ohlund deserve similar punishments—to be kept out for a game or two. Koivu’s injury is unfortunate, but I’m not one ever to be persuaded by the logic that a player should be automatically taken out of the lineup for as long as the player he injures—there are too many factors that can’t be accounted for.

But I also think that what happened to Koivu (and what could have happened to Kesler) deserves attention by the league. Both players—and every player in the NHL—deserves to know they can play the game without fearing such attacks.

And if they do happen, there should be consequences. No matter who you are.


Note 1: If anyone comes across video footage of these incidents, I’d really appreciate the links. If not, I’ll see if I can post the video myself on Saturday.

Note 2: Incidentally, I’m actually a big fan of Boogaard’s, and courtesy of Michael Russo, I see the big guy is being bid as the Rory Fitzpatrick IIVote4Boogey.

Sure. Why not?!

Update November 17th, 11am PT:
More from Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune on this issue, about both Gaborik and Ohlund

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