COMMENTARY | Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green was hurt again, this time suffering a lower body injury during last Tuesday's overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The two-time Norris Trophy finalist will miss Friday's game at the Detroit Red Wings.
While the Caps organization is used to the Calgary native missing time due to injury -- 93 out of the team's last 231 regular season games -- there is an open question as to whether Green is intentionally targeted for physical abuse by other teams above what is normal in an average game and if that is true whether it could end Green's career prematurely.
As Washington Post beat writer Katie Carrera points out, in his nine-year career Green "has been punctuated by myriad injuries, as he's missed time with two concussions, as well as shoulder, knee, ankle, hip flexor and groin injuries."
But evidence of a strategy to hit Green hard with the sometimes unintentional consequences of injuring him, go back to HBO's reality series "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic" back in 2010-2011. Pens Coach Dan Bylsma was seen on camera telling his players to "keep hitting Green." Former Capital Mike Knuble said when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers it was part of their game plan to hit Green as hard as possible, saying "he was and is a target." During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, then Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau accused the New York Rangers of intentionally targeting Green's head after Marc Staal took what Boudreau described as a "dirty shot."
If the league continues to target Green, it will end his career early. Could he change his style of play to leave him less vulnerable? Could his teammates send a message to opponents that targeting Green will not be tolerated? Could the NHL investigate whether Green is being intentionally targeted and issue a league-wide memorandum that it won't be tolerated? Or perhaps Green isn't targeted more than any other player and he simply is prone to injury?
Whatever the answers are, Green is too valuable to the Capitals and NHL for him to keep watching games from the rafters.
Josh Marks is a Washington, D.C.-based sports journalist who has covered the Capitals and NHL for SportsFanLive, Rant Sports, Inside Hockey, The Hockey Writers and multiple other newspapers and websites.
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