Switzerland’s Chris Egli was recently suspended three games by the IIHF for a thunderous open ice hit on Maple Leaf prospect William Nylander. This is yet another example of a player being suspended because of chance rather than intent. Egli stopped his stride, kept his elbow down, didn’t thrust up or jump into the hit, and wasn’t in any way over aggressive. What made this hit so hard was the speed at which Nylander skated into it. If Nylander had picked his head up and took the check to the shoulder, no one would be talking about it. It’s ridiculous to me to suspend someone for any length of time, let alone three games in a hugely important tournament in a young player’s career, for something he has no control over. I’m not even fully convinced there was much head contact, but whatever the case be Egli did everything in his power to control the outcome of that check. The only thing he could have done differently was to not throw it at all and what’s the point in that? That’s rewarding stupid. The laws are focusing so much on the specific ways a player throwing a clean check to an unpredictable moving object can minutely adjust in the spur of the moment to avoid the head of a player who is more often than not crouching down. How about going back to pumping clear and basic education back at the puck carrier. Here’s a four word free lesson to all you kids out there that players like me grew up on: keep your head up. Nylander picked up the puck in the open neutral zone and made almost a 180 degree turn, actually accelerating into the check. How dumb is that? It’s probably a lot smarter to assess your surroundings BEFORE exploding into full stride. He was staring down at the puck the whole time and basically skated into a brick wall, and we’re supposed to feel bad for him?
If Mike Babcock has room for one more lanky forward who can’t take a check then the Leafs haven’t learned anything.