11/19/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
In what has been a season lacking of scoring and excitement so far, the loss of Connor McDavid to long term injury has been the biggest blow the NHL has absorbed so far in 2015. Not only is McDavid a highly touted rookie. Not only is he already the face of the Edmonton Oilers franchise. McDavid is more and his loss hurts the league more because McDavid is considered to be a once in a generation talent.
McDavid has been compared to Sidney Crosby. He could be the guy who eventually takes Crosby's place as the face of the NHL. The only difference is Crosby played his entire rookie season and was able to record 100 points. McDavid won't do that. Even if he was healthy, McDavid most likely wouldn't reach the century mark in points because today's NHL is content having their leading scorer register 87 total points (see: Benn, Jamie), but that's a story for another time. But that also makes McDavid's injury hurt that much worse.
The NHL needs all of the offensive players it can have on the ice. It needs stories about a players potential and how many points he may put up. It needs something to take away from the constant media outpouring of articles and sports talk about why the NHL is a joke with it's lack of scoring, inability to enforce it's own rules, goalie equipment that's too big, nets that are too small, etc. etc.
This year could have been Connor McDavid versus Jack Eichel as the new face of the NHL. Just like 10 years ago when it was Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. And the worst part of it is the way McDavid was injured. Crashing into the end boards with two Philadelphia Flyers players which fractured his clavicle. Some have said that the play was a dirty play by those Flyers. Some have stretched it as far as saying the Flyers intended to injure McDavid. McDavid has refused to comment on the play.
No matter of whether it was intentional or not, the fact of the matter is it could've been prevented. If the NHL would just get over itself and make the changes necessary to make the game better for players and for fans. The rink needs to be bigger, first of all. The type of injury McDavid sustained would be reduced if the NHL used the Olympic sized rink. But it also could've been prevented if the NHL would actually enforce it's own rules. When the league took a tough stance on preventing concussions, the penalties for boarding and hitting a player from behind were plentiful and of the major penalty variety. Now, guys are getting away with pushing players into the boards while they're in dangerous positions it seems more and more. Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta was injured this week when he was pushed from behind and crashed into the open door on the visiting players bench. No penalty was called on the play.
If the NHL wants to protect it's young stars, it needs to start enforcing it's own rules. Any push into the boards is an automatic major penalty. No referees discretion. No trying to decide what warrants a major versus what warrants a minor penalty. Automatic. No questions asked. Push a guy into the boards when he's in a vulnerable position and it's a 5 minute penalty, no questions asked. It's worked in the NFL in greatly reducing head to head contact and hitting receivers that are deemed to be "defenseless".
What's it going to take for the NHL to make these changes? Losing a great talent to a serious injury Too late NHL, it's already happened to Connor McDavid. Now fix it before it happens again.
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