Sunday, January 16, 2011
Taylor Hall has blazing speed. Last night he tried to use that blazing speed to blow by Drew Doughty. The only problem is that Hall had his head down and didn’t see Doughty moving to cut him off before he hit the LA line. When you have your head down against someone like Doughty you’re probably going to get hit.
This hit is representative of everything stupid about the NHL. First, in my eyes this hit is clean. Doughty lowers his shoulder and drives into Hall. Viciously, yes. Predatory, no. He’s in front of Hall, so, theoretically, Hall should know he’s coming at him. Doughty isn’t coming out of nowhere like Richards and Cooke did in their blindside headshot hits. He doesn’t leave his feet. I don’t see what’s wrong with this hit.
This hit also is a good example of just how difficult it is to police head-shots. In real-time the announcers begin openly gushing about the hit right after Doughty lays it. They continue gushing after the first replay. It isn’t until the second replay that both announcers ascend to Mount Pious and denounce it as a head shot. It took two slow-motion replays for these guys to figure out it was a head-shot. All of a sudden instead of being a beautiful hit it’s now dirty? Give me a break.
Did he get hit in the head? Yes. But it isn’t really a head-shot.
Why does Hall get hit in the head? Look at how he skates. His head is down, so he doesn’t know what’s coming. And, additionally, he skates so low that his head will always be in a vulnerable position when he skates that fast (he's sort of like a raptor lurching ahead). What does he think is going to happen? This isn’t a player who has someone come from nowhere to drill him in the head (see: Cooke on Savard). This is a player who isn’t ready to get hit and he gets smoked.
After the hit there is obviously a mini-melee, which is the most ridiculous thing about the current NHL. Hall takes a clean hit along the boards because he’s brazen or stupid (take your pick). He should get up and go after the puck. Instead, he goes after Doughty with the aid of several teammates. This tells me that a) Hall isn’t capable of taking a hit; b) his teammates don’t think Hall is capable of taking a hit; and c) Hall had no awareness about the situation.
Who did Hall think he was skating towards? Tomas Kaberle? If that’s the case I can see why he wouldn’t think twice about skating with his head down along the boards. But he was skating against Drew Doughty.
Starting something after this hit is a problem. I understand teammates retaliating after a player is drilled into the boards from behind, but this is just a big hit. Do players equate big with dirty? Big hits usually happen because someone has put themselves in a dumb position. You cross the ice with your head down? You’re getting smoked. You think you can squeeze by Luke Schenn along the boards. Your life is going to end. There is a reason coaches tell their players to keep their head up. If you don’t it’s like drawing blood in a shark tank.
Hopefully Taylor Hall learns from this hit. He may have been able to get away with this in junior, but if he makes a habit of this in the NHL he isn’t going to last. Defencemen are too big, too fast, and they want to hit you and want those hits to hurt.
What else is going on here? Is this a generational thing? Are these players so coddled and doted upon growing up that they think they are somehow exempt from being hit like this? Is this an ego thing? Does Hall feel emasculated by this? Is Hall somehow less of a man for receiving this hit? Well, I’ll answer the last one. Yes. Hall is less of a man. But for the way he acts after the hit – not for receiving the hit. Does he not respect hard, clean hits? His actions show that he either can’t or is unwilling to take a hit. If you’re really upset take down Doughty’s number and dump it into his corner all night (good luck). Or be a man and get back at him in the proper way – the scoreboard. Hall has done that before! He received a brutal hit from Travis Hamonic in junior, didn’t miss a shift and eventually scored the game winner on a highlight reel goal.
Even if you think this is a head-shot it’s extremely marginal and that’s only with the aid of slow-motion replay. And if you think this is a head-shot you’re what’s wrong with hockey. If this is a head-shot we might as well ban hitting all together.