So, Ales Hemsky is dead and he took the Oilers season with him.
According to Jim Matheson, Hemsky is receiving an MRI on his shoulder and will miss tonight's game against the Sharks. For those who have been living under a rock (or in Winnipeg), Hemsky was run into the end boards by Michal Handzus in what was a brutal hit by Handzus's standards. A smooth-skating, two-way Slovakian who's been in the league since 1998, Handzus isn't known for his dirty play but his hit on Hemsky was pathetic, catching Hemsky around the shoulders with a crosscheck and riding him into the boards. It was taking "finishing his check" to its logical conclusion: he finished the hell out of Hemsky, smashing his face into the boards and knocking the Oiler star out of the game.
Total punishment for Handzus's dirty play: two minutes in the box. Total time missed by Hemsky: well, we're still working on that.
Now, we all know about Colin Campbell's Wheel o' Justice. If you injure a star player for an American team and you're not Chris Pronger, enjoy your time off. Plaster somebody up in Canada so ESPN doesn't notice, and unless he winds up in intensive care you'll probably get away with it. Do I sound a little paranoid? Well, it's the simplest explanation for the fact that this keeps happening.
Other teams have been taking liberties with the Oilers so often I'm surprised they don't carry tasers in their hockey pants. Yet not one of these incidents have been met with so much as a fine, never mind a suspension. Most were only two minute penalties if they were penalized at all. Make all the Wheel o' Justice jokes you want, but sometimes the game is just rigged.
The season began on a sour note when Jarome Iginla and Sheldon Souray got into it on October 8, with Souray and Iginla both chasing the puck into the same corner. Iginla's stick got between Souray's legs as he drove into the corner, causing him to lose his footing and smack into the boards face first. Souray missed sixteen games. Iginla got a two minute penalty and was left to go on his merry way molesting defensemen on the end boards until the end of time or his contract is up for renewal and he starts trying again; whatever happens first.
Now, there has been some good old-fashioned Copper and Blue dissent over this. I, honestly, give Iginla most of a pass for the play. It was careless but he got an appropriate penalty for that carelessness: two minutes in the sin bin. Anything further would be punishing based on the injury rather than the infraction. Derek, on the other hand, was of the opinion that Iginla played like a dirty bastard and deserved more than he got. Certainly the impact on the Oilers was significant, as it began the injury death spiral that's seen us slump to five games below .500 as opposed to our rightful three.
The NHL disciplinary office, if they even deigned to review the play, agreed with me. As well they should have for I am a genius. This incident would hardly be noteworthy on its own, but it was not on its own. It was only the first in a long, long chain of brutality.
On Remembrance Day, Clarke MacArthur tried to put Liam Reddox into the hospital. With Reddox turning in his own zone as the puck passed, MacArthur hit Reddox in the shoulder region with a hit from behind while Reddox was crouching about five feet into the boards. Riding Reddox's face into the boards, the young Fernando Pisani's face hit about halfway down the boards and he didn't get up. Frankly, it was a miracle and a testament to Reddox apparently being made out of titanium that he didn't miss the next game.
MacArthur looked sad after embossing a Blue Cross Blue Shield ad onto another human being's face. Apparently "looking sad" was sufficient excuse: he may not have absorbed the five-year-old's lesson to put on the breaks when he sees the other guy's numbers and he may have finished the hell out of that dirty hit, but he looked kinda glum so that makes it okay. He got five and a game, but he deserved a lot more than that. Quoting renowned fan of rough play Pierre McGuire, "sometimes good people can do bad things." Of course there was no suspension. Of course.
Just last week, there was another example when Ryan Wilson of the Colorado Avalanche popped Ethan Moreau with an Undertaker-style flying shoulder that even Jim Ross would have found excessive. Zack Stortini immediately threw down with Wilson, proving that whatever comments I might make about Moreau his teammates are willing to stick up for him. Wilson got a five minute penalty, but that was for fighting Stortini (who took an additional minor and a ten minute misconduct for standing up in somebody face-to-face instead of being a gutless puke). To quote Mick McGeough quoted by David Staples, "It was unfortunate. He had his head down. And he got hit really hard."
To quote the NHL rulebook, "43.1 Charging - A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner." Hope this helps, Mick.
Then there was Wednesday. Ales Hemsky's shoulder is sitting in a shoebox on Ken Lowe's desk and Michal Handzus is skating free as a bird, which is only justice if the injured player is an Edmonton Oiler. Call me paranoid, but when was the last time a player was suspended, say, two games or more for injuring an Oiler? Canucks, Senators, and Flames fans could probably sympathise: it seems to be going around Canada the last few seasons.