There's some added intrigue regarding who Canada will get as a semifinal foe at the world junior championship, since rival Team USA will begin the medal round without frontline defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Philadelphia Flyers prospect who is the D partner of U.S. star Jacob Trouba paid a stiff penalty for his spearing major/game misconduct in the Americans' round-robin finale vs. Slovakia. The IIHF highers-up determined that the defenceman's "actions were dangerous to the safety of [Slovakia's Matus] Matis but also unnecessary and avoidable." With the amount of suspensions so far during the WJC, some might take that to be on par with the term reckless endangerment — no one got hurt or anything, but an example must be made of someone lest the authorities look like they don't care. Bob McKenzie of TSN called "the suspension dumber than the original infraction."
What's done is done, though. What does it mean for Team USA ahead of its quarter-final vs. the Czech Republic, with the winner playing Canada on Thursday (4 a.m. ET/1 a.m. PT, TSN/RDS)?
From Chris Peters (@chrismpeters):
Team USA will be forced to go with six defensemen against a Czech team that has some good skill up front. This should mean some added ice time for Patrick Sieloff who could conceivably move up with Trouba, his former U18 D partner.
Gostisbehere also played an important role on Team USA’s second power-play unit, getting paired up with Seth Jones.
Expect to see more of Jake McCabe and/or Connor Murphy filling that void on the power play. Murphy looked good in the limited power-play time he received against Slovakia, earning an assist on Alex Galchenyuk’s late goal.
Losing Gostisbehere certainly hurts, but it won’t be crippling with the solid depth on the blue line. The U.S. has kept its bench generally short on defense with heavy doses of Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Jake McCabe. The pairs could get rotated a bit differently short a defenseman, but there’s a lot of versatility still on the back end which should help weather the Czech attack. (United States of Hockey)
It means extra shifts for the entire U.S. defence corps. If they get by the Czechs, which is no fait accompli, then they have a tight turnaround for what will be a very high-tempo rematch against Team Canada. That might factor into the rematch every fan in North America hopes to see.
I was honestly trying to stay out of the suspension debate since it's been repetitive, but what the hell. If nothing else, the IIHF has been consistent with its throw-the-book-at-'em approach to supplemental discipline throughout the tournament. The jury is out on the efficacy of applying what OHL fans call #BranchJustice to a short tournament.
Both Matis, who delivered a slew-foot, and Gostisbehere, who didn't rein himself in while knowing his team was up 5-1 over Slovakia and essentially sure of a medal-round berth, were out of line. However, Gostisbehere was punished for the act itself and there was no injury that would have required further sanction.
@chrismpeters as much as I know it was dumb/unnecessary/senseless yada yada yada, this suspension is beyond ridiculous. Not surprised, tho.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 1, 2013
The lifeblood of hockey, when you get down to it, is aggression. There is a much less watchable game without it. Dirty and gratuitious plays that cross the unwritten line are a side effect of 'good aggression.' It can only be controlled for, not eradicated.
Now, there might be little defending Team USA for not impressing on its players to toe the line in a blowout game during a tournament which had already had several suspensions. They know the IIHF, like and other leagues such as the OHL, have drawn a strict line on supplemental discipline. It's the tenor of the times (see the South Park "Sarcastaball" episode for the ultimate piss-take on it).
The frustration is understandable. The whole run of the game's history basically says 'good luck with that' when it comes to the idea of having totally clean but hard-nosed hockey, outside of the Olympics every four years. Small wonder hockey folks eventually weary of suspensions costing teams key players. In the case of Gostisbehere and Russia's Valeri Nichushkin, their absences could reduce the calibre of play when the world junior is supposed to building to crescendo. The U.S. will find out early Wednesday if Gostisbehere's absence lowers their team's quality.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.