March 20, 2012
Edmonton Oil Kings forward Henrik Samuelsson plays with the same edge that often made his father, Ulf Samuelsson, reviled during his NHL career in the 1980s and 1990s.
The elder Samuelsson, depending on whom is telling the tale, was either a tough customer or a dirty player (the latter being a majority opinion in Canada). So it is interesting that Henrik Samuelsson, in the 2 1/2 months since he joined the Western Hockey League regular-season champion Oil Kings after playing for his father's team in Sweden, has already incurred three suspensions. The rugged winger will miss the Oil Kings' first two playoff games after getting a five-minute major and game misconduct for clipping. That's led to questions of whether that Samuelsson nameplate is a target.
Edmonton sports radio host Guy Flaming, who hosts the excellent The Pipeline Show, noted, "the optics of seeing Samuelsson on his knees after the collision makes it look worse than it was. Samuelsson is moving into [the Red Deer Rebels' Adam] Kambeitz as opposed to backwards as in a textbook hip check." However, not textbook is not necessarily in violation of the rulebook. Flaming's provided a detailed of the WHL's Rule 44, which covers clipping. It shows there is some grey area here.
Contact was not below the knees but in the thighs (and it appears to me that Kambeitz may actually have been going upwards before the hit, possibly to try and avoid the collision). There was no injury on the play so really, according to the rule ... no basis for the major being assessed either.
So in my opinion, the correct penalty call (if any is required at all) is a two-minute minor.
It is the third suspension for Samuelsson in the two months since he joined Edmonton in the WHL. The others were both single game banishment for kneeing and charging. I think a person could make a case that Samuelsson is almost being judged on the reputation his father Ulf had earned in the NHL more so than for the "fouls" he himself has committed in the WHL. (Coming Down The Pipe!)
Of course, this is not entirely a "son of Ulf Samuelsson" situation. It's also another example of the big man's burden in major junior hockey. Henrik Samuelsson, who's a robust 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, certainly has skill, but he isn't going to get to the NHL by playing nice. Like other bigger players, he has to throw his weight around. It's practically a cost of doing business. But Alan Caldwell notes that now that Samuelsson has already had three suspensions, he might have to alter his style a play lest he want to end up spending a lot of time in press boxes.
Samuelsson being suspended for two playoff games probably means he might have gotten double or triple that if this were still the regular season. In just a half season in the WHL, this is Samuelsson's third suspension already. If he doesn't clean up his act, these suspensions are going to get worse and worse; he's 17 years old and already considered a "repeat offender" in the eyes of the league.
I really hate to make a comparison to his dad's reputation since everyone should be entitled to forge their own way without that kind of baggage. But Henrik is certainly showing signs of being a chip off the old blockhead in the cheap shot department. His three suspensions are for charging, kneeing, and now clipping — and those of us over 30 will certainly remember his dad had a thing for low hits and knee-on-knee hits too. Ask Cam Neely about that.
He's a good young player (23 points in 28 games attests to that) who is a power forward style player and needs to be using his body. He just needs to clean up the hits or he'll be dogged by ever-worsening suspension trouble. (Small Thoughts At Large)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.