Ryan Kesler snaps his head back, trying to draw a call against water.
The Department of Player Safety has been busy early in the season, handing out heavy suspensions for a number of dirty hits. In the last two weeks alone, Cody McLeod, Michael Grabner, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Garbutt and Patrick Kaleta have been suspended for a combined 27 games, and that’s to say nothing of the impending John Scott suspension, which is likely to be the lengthiest yet this season. There has been little hesitation to drop the ban hammer, and the DOPS is only getting more aggressive.
All that in mind, you can understand why Vancouver Canucks fans would be somewhat surprised to learn that Frans Nielsen won’t even get a hearing for what appeared to be an elbow to the head of Ryan Kesler Tuesday night on Long Island.
Here’s video of the moment:
On first glance, it appears that Nielsen is attempting to separate Kesler from a bouncing puck along the boards, and as he does so, he catches Kesler up high with his elbow, spinning the Canucks centre around. That’s what the officials believed happened, and Nielsen was sent to the penalty box for two minutes for elbowing:
Here’s a gif of the moment, courtesy @choderama:
No hearing for F. Nielsen for his “elbow” to Ryan Kesler’s “head” from Tuesday. Some of you were very concerned last night. #Isles
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 24, 2013
Why no hearing? Why, when the Department of Player Safety is looking to crack down on headshots, especially picking the head, and when Alex Edler just returned from a three-game suspension for doing something fairly similar?
Simple. It’s a dive. Kesler dove.
He’ll do that.
There’s no real collision to speak of. It’s not a reckless play. It’s not a partial headshot. It’s nothing. Ryan Kesler, one of the league’s most egregious divers, simply dove egregiously.
Watch the looping GIF. Nielsen blows by Kesler, who loses the puck, and then he bodies Kesler off from it. It’s a pretty standard defensive play. But when he leans into Kesler, he brushes the side of Kesler’s head. At that moment, feeling it and knowing he’s about to be beaten, Kesler flails, pulling a mid-air 180 and dropping to the ice in anticipation of the call. The refs don’t see anything, but since they, like most of us, are pretty sensitive to a player lying facedown on the ice — especially after a week chock-a-block with players stretchered off — they call Nielsen for what appears to have happened.
Consider that the last time Kesler will get the benefit of the doubt this season. Remember Stephane Auger? Officials remember being duped. This isn’t a case of the league being insensitive to the Canucks. It’s the evidence for why they might be later.
Most of the time, I don’t really care much about diving. It’s scummy, sure, but for all the calls you draw by diving, I’d say you lose just about as many due on reputation. So whatever. It balances out. I don’t have much of a moral reaction to it. Some guys are above it. Some guys (lots, in fact) aren’t.
But this one I find especially unconscionable, because Kesler is preying on the league’s primary concern. This is some dangerous territory he’s wading into, feigning a headshot, and making a mockery of hockey’s move to protect its players’ heads is only going to further sully his and his team’s reputation.
Worse, when the Canucks actually do need the benefit of the doubt, Kesler just used it up.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Canucks are struggling to get calls early this season, something John Tortorella addressed when queried about on Thursday. Via Jason Botchford at The Province:
“I know the reputation from the outside looking in. When I wasn’t coaching here everybody thought Vancouver dove and did some whining. Our team is not going to dive. They’ve been talked to. I don’t think there’s much whining going on either.
“I’m certainly not trying to accuse the refs of that. But I know there’s been a reputation. I’ve been in the league long enough I know sometimes that hangs around too. This is my chance to to say we’re going to be an honest team. We’re trying to be an honest team. And I hope we get some goddamn calls along the way.”
They’ve been talked to? You might want to talk to at least one of them again.
There’s been a lot of chatter about Kesler’s play to open the season, mainly due to the increased expectation surrounding him because of his 41-goal season two years ago and the panic he won’t get back to where he was. But I’m not overly worried about Kesler’s production.
His productions, however — elaborate little theatre pieces like these? Those have to go.Tags: diving, Frans Nielsen, Ryan Kesler, ryan kesler dives best