Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rewarded For A Dirty Hit

Under the current CBA, it is very hard for a rookie to crack the lineup of an NHL team out of training camp. It is harder under this CBA than under previous ones because of re-entry waivers. Any player who is not on a two way contract who gets sent to the minors out of training camp likely cannot be recalled because they have to clear waivers to get called up. Any claimed player on re-entry waivers will have only half his salary charged to the claiming team, thus making him very cheap to the claiming team. Thus, lineups are largely set by contract status before camp opens and deviation from this lineup will likely cause a player to be lost for the entire season.

This means that a young player must do something extraordinary to win a roster spot in training camp. In a perfect world, the extraordinary achievement would be a pre-season hat trick or some other similar achievement, but that is not the only way for a young player to get noticed.

Steve Downie of the Philadelphia Flyers got himself noticed for a dirty hit in Tuesday's pre-season game with the Ottawa Senators (a game which Ottawa won 4-2). With his 1 goal in four pre-season games, Downie likely was not looking at making an NHL roster until he hit Dean McAmmond during the game. Downie left the point to charge at McAmmond (about 40 feet) and left his feet for a hit on McAmmond's head. McAmmond left the game injured. This play showed Philadelphia management that Downie could deliver a brutal hit and may have won him a roster spot.

For his effort, Downie received a match penalty for intent to injure and an automatic suspension. He probably also won a spot on the Philadelphia Flyers roster when the suspension ends.

If this kind of a feedback cycle exists, there is plenty of reason to believe we will see other dirty hits from rookies trying to make an impression to secure NHL jobs. It is bad for everyone if a player injuring another can give him a leg up to start his career, but in the rough and tumble world of the NHL, that is the way it is.

NOTE: Steve Downie has been suspended for 20 games. TSN's story on the suspension is here. This 20 game suspension will be served only when Downie is a member of the Flyers 23 man roster. This makes for an interesting problem for the Flyers. Do they get the suspension overwith by leaving him on their roster - and thus leaving them a man short on their roster or do they keep the roster space and send Downie to the AHL where he will still have to serve the suspension when he gets called up?

NOTE2: Downie has been sent to the minors. Any player suspended in the NHL is automatically suspended in the AHL, until the AHL commissioner can review the case. I imagine that sinced the NHL suspension is only for games when Downie is on an NHL roster that it will be ruled that he can play in the AHL. Otherwise, he has an indefinite AHL suspension and it makes no sense to not call him up to the NHL so he can play eventually (after 20 games). Philadelphia starts their season with a western road trip with games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Maybe they feel they need all their roster spots for a trip like that in event of injury. Maybe Downie will come up after that trip is over because for their next 20 games they do not leave the eastern time zone and it would be easier to bring in players if they need a full roster on short notice.

efully after the suspension is at least 40 games and maybe 80 if the league really wants to ban head shots, leaving your feet, charging, elbowing, etc, etc.
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