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What We Learned: Headshot debate reaches hysterical levels

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Oh boy, Christmas has come early for me again this year.

On Saturday night, Johnny Boychuk(notes) knocked the ever-living crap out of Matt Stajan(notes), on his 26th birthday no less and soooooo: It's another hit legality debate! Yayyyyyy!

Stajan was obviously cut open, but he was stitched up and returned to the game within a few minutes. No harm, no foul ... except on Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes), who picked up a penalty for roughing on the ensuing dust-up.

Obviously this play was like the Batsignal for all the clowns who (a) don't understand hockey and (b) want this to become a gallant and honorable sport in which no one is ever put in a position where they could be injured.

So here comes the hilarious part, in which, thanks to of the amount of coverage this "headshots" debate has gotten this year, those that would have these hits outlawed and the offending players pilloried have now taken a new approach: Act like you don't know what you think.

(Coming Up: Detroit's done with the Hossa stuff; Tomas Fleischmann(notes) is as good as Alex Semin, while Ryan Kesler(notes) is no Geno Malkin; the Habs meet the Basterds; the Wild go shopping; and Alex Ovechkin(notes) adds another beauty to the highlight reel.)

"Is This the Type of Hit the NHL Should Be Eliminating?" screams the headline on Adam Gretz's FanHouse post from Sunday morning. "Boychuk check on Stajan expected to be reviewed," says Mike Zeiserberg's article for Sun Media.

The problem is, of course, that the League is unlikely to review the hit since no one was hurt, no penalties were assessed and there's absolutely nothing to review. Both of these articles -- which go so far out of their way to say that they of course do not advocate that hitting be taken out of the game so as to convince you that the idiotic things they say next aren't that idiotic -- would have you believe differently.

Zeiserberg's article ever so generously concedes that Stajan had his head down and the hit wasn't late. "After that, well, the jury is out."

Out on what, exactly? Boychuk's elbow was down and only hit Stajan's head because Stajan's head, again, was down at elbow level. So what's the problem? Was Boychuk supposed to let Stajan fly past him to create a 2-on-none situation for Tuukka Rask(notes)?

Well, Wilson and Stajan thought Boychuk might have left his feet (they're wrong, of course), so there's all the evidence you need that the League should investigate Boychuk for his obviously premeditated attack on poor, defenseless little Matty Stajan, who probably saw the hit coming but took it anyway to spring Phil Kessel(notes) in alone on Rask. Any contact Boychuk made with Stajan's head is entirely Stajan's fault.

The best part, though, is that because Gretz needed to reinforce an asinine point, he did what everyone who has an indefensible stance eventually does: Resort to alarmism and the use of worst-case scenarios to illustrate his weak point. To wit: "...And this past week's bombshell that former player Reggie Fleming had suffered significant brain damage at the time of his death ... is only going to keep that debate going full steam ahead."

See guys, we can't let these hits be legal because Matt Stajan is going to DIE some day!

Kudos. That's audacity.

But Gretz asks, "At the risk being called a 'granola cruncher' by Mike Milbury for 'wussifying the game,' is this the type of hit the NHL should be working to avoid?"

Yes, of course it is Adam. Clean, open-ice hits need to result in penalties, suspensions and hearings before an international tribunal. That makes sense.

Claude Julien had the best take on the matter in his postgame presser:

"We are going to have to be careful about making accusations to guys who make open ice hits. We are going to have to be careful how we look at those. If every open ice hit is going to (ignite controversy), we might as well play no contact hockey."

I get the feeling some people would be cool with that.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller(notes) probably wishes the League would go back to making division opponents eight times a year since his numbers against Phoenix are, well, ridiculous. He's 8-0-2 in his career against the Coyotes with a 1.67/.953 line in their last three games.

Atlanta Thrashers: Kari Lehtonen(notes) is actually skating again. This weekend was the first time he'd done so since having two back surgeries in the offseason.

Boston Bruins: Apart from the one big hit, Boston was just awful on Saturday in Toronto. Part of that was injuries (Andrew Ference(notes) played over 28 minutes!) but most of it was a regular garden-variety crap game.

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Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller(notes) on Olympic expectations, Vezina nominations and generally being the best goalie on the planet right now: "C'mon," he said, last week, rolling his eyes. "It's like, 25 games into the season."

Calgary Flames: Know who had a great game for the first time this month on Saturday? Jarome Iginla(notes). Know who didn't have a great game? Everyone else.

Carolina Hurricanes: While Bryan Rodney getting re-assigned to Albany is pretty much only news by the strictest of definitions; that at least means it's likely either Tim Gleason(notes) or Niclas Wallin(notes) are good to go against the Rangers tonight. It's more likely to be Gleason, though, so that's something.

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane(notes) was left to pick up equipment after practice on Saturday because he lost in the team's practice shootout. If I were Danny Bylsma, I'd be drafting a lawsuit against the Blackhawks as we speak.

Colorado Avalanche: No one sentence I read this week has made me laugh more than Jibblescribbits saying, "The Avs recently took their yearly trip to the Children's Hospital in order to torment some sick little kids."

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets' new plan for who pulls goaltending duty on a given night? "You win and you're in." No joke. So what happens if they keep losing? (By the way, good job Puck Rakers for dumping the "you have to register to read" policy from last week.)

Dallas Stars: Play of the game on Saturday wasn't one of Karlis Skrastins'(notes) two goals, or some kind of big stop by Marty Turco(notes). It was, instead, a blocked shot by Brenden Morrow(notes) on the PK inside of a minute to go. What you choose to believe about a team whose best play was a blocked shot... On a lazy slashing penalty... That happened on the opposite end of the ice from its own goal... By your star player... While up a goal on Detroit... Inside of two minutes left... That's up to you.

Detroit Red Wings: Sorry, everyone in Chicago, the Red Wings won't indulge your "You guys hate Hossa, right?" questions.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers have, not surprisingly, been the Grinch to all Edmonton fans' Christmas season. "Speaking of Deslauriers, he's gone from sitting for months between starts last season to making 111 straight appearances with Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) waiting for Santa to deliver a new spine. Anybody have a plan?" Outstanding.

Florida Panthers: Well Detroit fans, looks like I almost owe you an apology: it's actually Florida that has the worst fans in the league.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are about to sign Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds overage defenseman Jacob Muzzin, who had NHL scouts lined up around the block earlier this season. Great get for the Kings here.

Minnesota Wild: The best thing about all the Wild's equipment burning up was that Nick Schultz(notes) went into a Play it Again Sports in Ottawa and bought a new set of shoulder pads. That rules.

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Montreal Canadiens: Snow on the East Coast kept the Habs in Long Island a bit longer than they wanted. But they got to watch "Inglourious Basterds," which is my favorite movie of the year so far, so it wasn't all bad.

Nashville Predators: After missing Saturday's game against the Flames, Jason Arnott(notes) is still questionable for tomorrow's game in Vancouver. If he doesn't go then, he's going to play on Boxing Day for sure.

New Jersey Devils: Rod Pelley(notes) scored Saturday. Kind of a big deal. It was his first NHL goal since Nov. 23, 2007. Another guy that scored in that game: Dean McAmmond(notes). Twice.

New York Islanders: Official attendance on the Island because of the snow: Just 6,000. And, as Chris Botta points out, more than half of them were supporting Les Habitants.

New York Rangers: Hey, Matt Gilroy(notes) got recalled in a hurry. I wonder who the slowest guy on the Hurricanes is, and if he's going to blow Gilroy's doors off en route to an overtime winner tonight. Oh, here's some bad news: Wade Redden(notes) is probably going to play tonight.

Ottawa Senators: Big 22-save performance by Brodeur in a 4-1 win by the.. Senators? Oh, Mike Brodeur(notes). Okay I get it now.

Philadelphia Flyers: "This is about making the playoffs. This is about the Philadelphia Flyers playing a brand of hockey that you can be proud of. And I don't know how anyone could possibly be proud after the first, two periods. It's completely unacceptable." Fun quiz: Which game is Peter Laviolette talking about?

Phoenix Coyotes: Watch out for Phoenix in the next few weeks. Three points out of a tie for first in the Pacific, which crazily puts it just seventh in the West, but has the benefit of playing six of its next seven games in Glendale. The Coyotes are 12-5-0 there this year.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Brooks Orpik(notes) is not cool with the NHL changing the names of its various trophies (nor should he be). Sid Crosby on the other hand? "I don't think you can go wrong either way, to be honest with you. If they are to rename them, you're talking about trophies being named after Mario and Gretzky. How can you argue with that? They are, arguably, the best players ever to play." Weak, Sid. Weak. He'd change his tune if his landlord wasn't one of the guys that'd be on the new trophies.

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San Jose Sharks: How many times has Jamie McGinn(notes) been recalled this season? A hundred? Isn't THIS circumventing the salary cap (or at least operating in violation of its spirit) just as much as some stupidly long-term contract?

St. Louis Blues: Larry Pleau's working the phones like an operator on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, but the Blues are probably not going to make a trade any time soon.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Lukas Krajicek(notes) is done with the Lightning for sure. Says GM Brian Lawton: He "won't be on re-entry (waivers) under any circumstances." Cold-blooded.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jonas Gustavsson(notes) wasn't tested much by a punchless Bruins side, but a first NHL shutout is a first NHL shutout, isn't it? Good work by the kid.

Vancouver Canucks: Know who the Vancouver media loves is Ryan Kesler. You can tell because they write sentences like this in reference to Kesler potentially being one of the best second-line centers in the league: "After Friday's game, Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes) -- easily hockey's best one-two punch at centre -- had combined for 77 points. Henrik Sedin(notes) and Kesler had 75." Of course Malkin missed six games and Crosby one. And Ryan Kesler also is not anywhere in the same stratosphere as either Crosby or Malkin. That too.

Washington Capitals: Would you believe Tomas Fleischmann has as many goals as Alex Semin? Because it's true. And, unlike Ryan "Malkin" Kesler, he's actually played fewer games than Semin.

Play of the Weekend

This is why Alex Ovechkin is Alex Ovechkin.

Great use of speed and ability to recognize opportunities, and then he buries a rebound that's still sizzling from some ridiculous angle on his off wing. This kid's okay.

Gold Star Award

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Andrei Markov(notes) played his first game since Oct. 1 on Saturday. And scored twice. That's pretty awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I will ignore that the goals came against the Islanders.

Minus of the Weekend

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Brent Sutter, what are you doin' to me, dogsie?

The Flames have lost three of their last four and have just three wins in December. Teams they've beaten: San Jose, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Teams to which they've lost: Phoenix, L.A., Minnesota (in OT), Colorado, St. Louis, Nashville. Showing up to play well even against the crap teams? That'd be nice.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

There are a lot of ways you can win PHFBTPOTW (I gotta get a better acronym), and calling Lubomir Visnovsky(notes) a "world-class defender" sure is one of them. Well done to you, user "Smooth Skating!"


Andy Sutton(notes)

Brendan Witt(notes)


Shawn Horcoff(notes)

Lubomir Visnovsky

New york gets a world class defender in Visnovsky and a veteran center that can take take some of the pressure off the kids.


Don't call it that.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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