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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wild Honour Gaudreau with 21-Slash Salute

Sixth in league scoring as a sophomore with 30 goals and 78 points, you knew Johnny Gaudreau was going to command a lot of respect this season.

Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota chose to recognize the diminutive Flames star with a 21-slash salute, the hockey version of one of the military's highest honours.

Usually reserved for military or state funerals, the 21-gun salute is when a cannon or some form of artillery is fired 21 times into the air. It comes from a naval tradition of ships firing all unspent ammunition into the sea to show that it is unarmed and signify a lack of hostile intent.

Lack of hostile intent? Right. Might want to check in with Christian Folin, Ryan Suter, Jason Zucker and the rest of the Wild involved in that stick-swinging performance.

While Gaudreau is not dead as the metaphor goes, the Flames playoff chances sure will be if the first line left winger is lost for an extended period of time. Seen earlier examining his left hand or wrist, Gaudreau left the game eight minutes into the third period and did not return.



Recapping Minnesota's Performance

The 'tribute' began five minutes into the game on Gaudreau's third shift, in which he also produced the game's only goal.

As he carried the puck in on a zone entry during a Flames power play, Mikko Koivu took the first swing.

That's 1.

Shortly after, sprung on a breakaway from the blueline in on a bullet pass by Mark Giordano, Gaudreau fended off a six-pack of stick-work from three Wild players in pursuit in deftly slipping a backhand past Devan Dubnyk.

First it was Folin reaching his stick in, then came two desperate swipes at the puck from Charlie Coyle that both rode up the shaft of his stick and into the hands region. Then came the serious stuff, two much more solid chops from Folin and a last-ditch flailing by Jonas Brodin that caught him more on the hip after the puck was already off the stick and bound for the open corner.

That's 7.

Next shift came another slash although this one more a run-of-the-mill hockey play that happens when you're battling -- a soft one-hander to the hands from Erik Haula.

That's 8.

Two shifts later came another one, this one with some venom. While Gaudreau was positioned in front of the Minnesota net without the puck, Suter delivered a hard whack to the hands.

That's 9.

Then it was time for Zucker to perform a solo act.

It began with a swipe at the hands by the Wild left winger. Next shift came three more. First, a more purposeful swing at his hands as Gaudreau ducked behind his own net. On the ensuing rush up ice, Zucker delivered two solid whacks on the left glove as he chased him.

That's 13.

Now to be fair, Gaudreau delivers his shares of slashes through a game too, especially on a forecheck. On this occasion, he takes a swipe at Suter deep in the Minnesota corner, who then returns the favour by whacking him right back as they both head up ice.

Into the second period now, it's Suter again. As Gaudreau skates through the slot without the puck, it's another whack to that left hand. This one stings noticeably as he gives his glove a shake right after.

That's 15.

Back on the power-play in which a string of penalties with a TV time-out mixed in resulted in a lengthy 2:51 shift for Gaudreau, the slashes began once again on zone entries as the Flames do their usual and make a drop pass to Gaudreau, who charges over the Wild blueline with speed, but right into the line of fire each time.

Mikael Granlund gets him with a one-hander. Next approach, it's Koivu with a similar one-hander.

That's 17.

Playing four-aside, it's Suter again, this time chopping him as Gaudreau darts through the neutral zone and then for good measure, mugging him with his glove and hauling him to the ice for a well-earned interference penalty.

Back on the man advantage and still on this lengthy shift, Eric Staal delivers a two-hander to the gloves. Again, Gaudreau shakes his hand.

That's 19.

Into the third period, it's another encounter with Folin. Skating through the neutral zone and again without the puck, the Wild defenceman stands him up with a cross-check into the same hands and wrist area. Gaudreau turns immediately turns and heads to the bench.

That's 20.

Lastly, on shift 17 for Gaudreau, it's one more whack into the hands, this one by Staal finishes his night.

That's 21. Or black jack. Or black and blue.



Sticks and Bones

There are apparently two problems with our hands and wrists when it comes to the NHL justice system:
  1. They don't break in half when slashed.
  2. They don't separate from our body when slashed.

If so, maybe the increase in stick-work that Gaudreau (and other star forwards, to be fair) seem to be subject to these days wouldn't be an issue.

What I mean by this is when are slashing penalties most often called? When a player's stick is slashed. It's as if every broken stick comes equipped with a chalk outline and a roll of police tape.

All the time, it is the outcome in which the severity of the crime is decided. No matter how soft of a slashing motion it may be, it seems that any slash to the stick is an automatic penalty if either the stick is knocked out of a player's hands (see Garnet Hathaway last night) or if the stick breaks.

Of course, the flaw with this line of thinking is the frequency in a game in which sticks will just shatter on their own when hardly touched or sometimes not even touched at all. With the composite stick material compromised from an earlier incident(s) -- maybe a skate blade went over it, or from normal wear and tear -- we've all seen sticks explode in the shaft when doing something as simple as receiving a pass, preparing to shoot or just taking a face-off.

Meanwhile, all the time, whacks and slashes that make direct contact to the 27 bones that make up the human hand and wrist are often shrugged off. If only X-Ray vision was a real thing and not just in comic books. Is this what it's come to? The NHL is more concerned about $250 hockey sticks than the million dollar hands of its star players?


Final Word

As of early Wednesday morning, there is no word yet on Gaudreau's condition. Safe to say all Flames fans as well as the entire organization are collectively holding their breath.


Think about it. A broken wrist, for example, could sideline him for eight weeks. Lose a $6.75 million hockey player like Johnny Hockey for two months, or one-third of the hockey season, and you may as well attach a $2 million price tag to the slash that got him, and it went unpenalized. That's the equivalent of 8,000 broken hockey sticks.

And don't kid yourself, a long-term injury to Gaudreau doesn't just hurt his own team, it hurts the league. Calgary is three days away from departing on a six-game Eastern road trip with once-a-season stops in Detroit, Buffalo, Columbus, Boston, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. That's a lot of big hockey markets and would be a huge missed opportunity for the NHL to showcase one of the most exciting players in the game.

It's time for the league to get its priorities straight and forget about the slashing of sticks, but crack down on the slashing of bones, or expect teams to take protection into their own hands.

Heck, if you're the Flames, you should anyway. Teams need to know that it's not OK to take liberties on your marquee player. Micheal Ferland, Garnet Hathaway, Troy Brouwer, Sean Monahan and others, this is a responsibility the entire team should share.

Because without Gaudreau's silky-smooth hands in the line-up, you can forget about the post-season. If that happens and it results in another disappointing year, it will be disgruntled fans that will be delivering the next salute and it will be comprised of slashes also, as in how much of their income they're prepared to spend on season tickets.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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12 comments:

  1. absolutely ridiculous. happens every game and NEVER gets called.

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  2. If someone could make a video showing how many of these incidents were ignored by the refs or simply not called, I'm sure we can send a strong message to the league.

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  3. A video of all the uncalled slash's against the Flames so far this season would send a message. Or maybe just against Johnny to show the cheap shots a star player has to deal with on a daily basis with no protection from the refs.

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  4. Would like the refs from this game to reimberse me for the remainder of my season tickets which now have no value. League was so desperate to get rid of goons and enforcers but thinks slashing is just a natural part of the game. Stick infactions have no place in the new NHL, be better, be able to play with younger/faster players without tomohawk chopping or get replaced, regardless of name on back 9f jersey.

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  5. I've watched the Flames since I was a small boy. Sat on my dad's lap watched the Stanley Cup win. Been with them thick and thin, and I can't ever remember being as frustrated watching them as this season.I have tried to look at ever angle to figure out the buyest reffing this team has had to deal with the last few years. All year I've watched Gudreau take lumber in the offensive and neutral zone. He has clearly demonstrated frustration as has the rest of the team. If the fans are frustrated like I know I am stop go8mg to the games. Stay at home and watch it on TV, let the NHL lose revenue on a stable market club. I would wager things will change really quick. Get rid of Dennis Wideman and get an enforcer. England does his best as it seems no one else is going to step up when needed. The fans come to watch the Gudreau's of the game play. That's all I have to say about that.

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  6. Lets not be ridiculous. The '21 slashes' you're talking about, most of them could be considered a strong wind.

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  7. 21 in 17 shots? It's worse than I thought. I'm furious at the hackfest Johnny experiences each time he gets his dangle on.
    Remember that circle jerk thread we had awhile back where someone said Johnny was developing a reputation as a whiner? and everyone commented that he should just tone it down? I think differently. In his case, being vocal about infractions is not only essential, it's a matter of self preservation.
    This guy has superstar ability and potential, but the NHL is full of plugs who, if they can just matchup against him and keep him off the scoresheet, they earn another shift. Some contain stars the right way, like Backlund, with skill and hustle, but the rest pull out the hatchets and hack away. Maybe not all the the time, but sometimes when they are straight up beat in their own end, basically a situation that Johnny Hockey serves up regularly.
    I'm guilty of it too. Sometimes in my ball hockey leagues, I get pissed at a guy who is playing too cute, and let's just say I accidentally follow through a bit more and a bit later than I normally would. I'm no angel. While I'm normally a clean player, sometimes I let out my inner pilon. The legs stop moving, but the hands and stick keep going.
    Johnny's situation reminds me of Arjen Robben, the soccer pro. He was clocked in the world cup last year at 37km/h during a run in the 2014 World Cup, making him the fastest soccer player in the world. Combine his speed with a massive soccer field, and the guy is unstoppable in a fair fight. Defenders are afraid of him embarrassing them on the world stage. As a result they often "miss" the ball and hit his ankles, legs, anything to slow him down. If he tolerates it and tries to play through that, how many games will he last before getting seriously injured? two? five? ten? certainly not an entire season. He's my favourite soccer player but takes a lot of heat for diving. He has had some real douzies too, I'll admit I had to shake my head at a few. Triple pirouettes right into the water. But he could be a genius because by going down easily, or at least having that reputation, Mr. Robben discourages cheap shots. I wish it wasn't necessary but I'm afraid it is and if I were him I'd do the same.
    Getting back Johnny, he doesn't dive so he has to handle this issue another way. One day he'll have digital wrist protectors with sensors that count the amount of hacks he takes. Until then, speak up young prince. Let the refs have it.
    - Jaybot

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  8. 21 in 17 shifts*
    - Jaybot

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  9. I can't believe Canadians are whining about slashing.

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    1. The best part is, Calgary is #1 in the league so far this year with 127 minor penalties... the Wild are 26th with 80... 47 less. And if you look at overall PIMs, Calgary has 290 (3rd place)... the Wild are at 22nd with 188... over 100 PIMs less in 20 something games...

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  10. Can you guys whine any more? Sheesh... there were two slashes (Suter's and Staal's) that were even penalty worthy.. the rest were one handed love taps. If Johnny is that tender, maybe he needs to get some better gloves... or take up tennis. Sheeesh. The Wild are 20th in the league with an average of 8.32 PIMs per game and are 26th in the league with 80 total minor penalties so far this season... Calgary is first with 127 minors. You guys tell me who the hacks are.... SMH

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  11. I like the fact that you supplement your articles with photos and interesting videos.

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