Attrition, Episode #835179: Karlsson is Broken

by Jacob Saltiel
Pittsburgh Penguins v Vancouver Canucks

Kiss the Ring

Though Ottawa fans will be sure that Matt Cooke spent years in a basement collecting magazine clippings and meticulously planning an assassination, Karlsson was hurt on a routine check gone horribly wrong last night. Considering that Cooke will escape punishment, two issues arise in connection with this play :

1) What this means for the Ottawa Senators

and

2) What this means for the perception of Matt Cooke

Depth Charge!

The most recent post on BGS described the depth of the Senators as impressive. In the wake of Spezza’s back injury, it appeared that with callups and the improvement of some young players on the roster that they would be in good shape. Can the Senators repeat this trick without Karlsson?

The number they have to replace isn’t only the 65 on the back of Karlsson’s jersey, but the 27:03 of icetime he averaged a night. One might have expected Old Man Gonchar to take over some of Karlsson’s powerplay time and even strength minutes, but he’s already averaging 24:14 a night, and he’s 38.

Beyond Gonchar, it’s unclear who’ll take over the puck-moving responsibilities. Methot and Phillips are both stay-at-home defencemen. Andre Benoit has played well in the minors in an offensive role, but only gets 15 minutes of ice time a night in the big leagues. His D-partner, the unpronounceable Wiercioch has shown that he can play the powerplay in the minors, is gigantic at 6″5, and can stand to play more minutes. He’s also a rookie and it’s unclear if he can play upwards of 20 minutes a night at this stage of his career.

On the farm, it’s not obvious who, if anyone, can fill those minutes. So if you’re a Senators fan, please enjoy the Mike Lundin experience.

Matt Cooke is Popping Bottles on a Cruise Ship in the Caribbean and Shanahan Can’t Do a Thing

In recent times, Canadiens fans have watched a player on their team have his neck broken on what looked awfully like an illegal hit from behind. In general, the media characterized Chara’s hit on Pacioretty as accidental, and just one of those things that happen in a hockey game, and mostly the fault of the architect of the Bell Centre for having the stanchions constructed in that way. On the part of those media members who explained away Chara’s recklessness, that was an incredible* display of rhetorical gymnastics.

Many Senators fans will feel the same way about anyone who suggests that Cooke did not intend to injure Karlsson. The difference, however, is that Chara is a player with a nice reputation who happened to do an abominable thing. Cooke lived in a darkly grey moral area until very recently when he cleaned up his act. While I’m not sure that everyone should go overboard congratulating Cooke for finally agreeing not to establish a hockey career by intentionally injuring the opposition, that doesn’t mean that this hit is a return to the bad old days.

Paul Maclean disagrees, as he was quoted as saying the following: “We all know who’s involved in it”. The logic to Maclean, and probably Sens fans by extension, is that because it was Cooke, it must have been intentional. In Chara’s case, the logic worked in the other direction: it could not have been intentional, it was Chara! And he’s our friend (mumbled media members everywhere).

This example of prejudice against Cooke might make more sense had Karlsson been blindsided with an elbow or shoulder to the head, as in the cases of Marc Savard and Ryan McDonagh. That type of hit was all too common earlier in Cooke’s career.

Have a look here, and here, and here.

The play that injured Karlsson last night bears no resemblance to the types of predatory hits that Cooke made himself an NHL career with. In fact, Aaron Ward, on TSN’s hockey panel last night, did an excellent job of explaining how this kind of hit, the ‘hit and pin’, actually does happen throughout every NHL game, and even pointed to a few examples from the Calgary-Minnesota game he was supposed to have been commenting on.

People will recall that when Jordan Staal’s foot got lacerated in the playoffs in 2010, there were some in Pittsburgh who were mad enough to blame Subban for doing this intentionally.

As with the Staal-Subban example, this injury was caused by the fact that two players were skating hard near one another, and in the sport of hockey they happen to have sharpened metal skids attached to their feet. These kinds of things happen, and while that might not lessen the blow to Senators fans, it does not mean that Cooke meant to do it. The decision not to suspend him is the right one.

***

*As in not, not at all credible.

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