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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Keep Your Head Up, Kid

taylor hall oilers hurt injury
Last night the Edmonton Oilers lost 5-2 to the LA Kings. That isn’t news. The Oilers are a young team trying to learn how to compete in a tough Western Conference while trying to forge an identity and consistency. They are second last in the NHL - tied with the New York Islanders - but there is hope on the horizon in the form of young blue-chip prospects like Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and Taylor Hall. The latter of which had his bell rung last night.

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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

So Hall has to keep his head up but Perron doesn't?

If they're trying to create a safer league
then they should be giving out punishments regardless of actual injury. Incidental
contact with the head is a suspendable offence.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure on this hit if it meets the League standard for head shot. It's a 50/50 kind of situation. I see your point on keeping your head up but the other side is this:

Doughty approaches laterally, he is in front but he is coming in from the side. Also Doughty had control of the situation, he could have chosen to hit the body rather than the head. I know this would require Doughty to be more aware, and a little more careful with his hits, but this needs to happen to reduce these concussions.

These hits are starting to cut careers short. We need to balance "keeping the game pure" with multi-million dollar athletes destroying their lives for our amusement.

Anonymous said...

Just read a further report that Hall says contact was not to the head. This hit was not a headshot. The question is if first contact was to the head would it be a suspension?

Matt Horner said...

Anon 1 - I think you're talking about Booth (if you're making reference to the Richards hit). That's different because he's already passed the puck, although he is guilty of admiring his pass rather than looking at the freight train coming his way. It was probably a late hit in addition to being a blindside shot. I also don't agree that incidental contact to the head is a suspendable offense.

Anon 2 - Also, we need to remember that there isn't actually a rule against all head shots. There is a rule against blindside hits, which according to NHL.com is "A lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or is the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

Timothy said...

I agree with the keep your head up mentality. I think that the league is getting to protective of players. What does he think he's going to do just fly into the zone? Does he expect not to get leveled there? No reason to retaliate or to start a line brawl. Get up and play.

Anonymous said...

It was a head shot. He clearly targetted his head, and he struck it.
What else do you need? A confession?
On the clip audio even the announcers said it:
"That's a head shot!"

Bo Jackson said...

He clearly targeted the head? Give me a break. Those two were moving so fast there is no way he could have targeted anything except his body. The announcers only say it's a headshot after the aid of two slow-motion replays.

Anonymous said...

Taylor Hall has such a big head that Doughty couldn't help but hit it. That thing looks like an orange on a toothpick!

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