Oilers center Sam Gagner was whacked in the face by Canuck Zack Kassian Saturday night (in a PRESEASON game) and will need surgery to repair his broken jaw. Gagner is out indefinitely. Zack is really sorry. Who are we kidding; Kassian a repeat offender and likely won’t lose a wink of sleep. This heaps more bad news onto a team so thin at center; Oiler fans wish Shawn Horcoff was still on the roster. But that wasn’t all the bad news from Saturday.
In the same game, Vancouver forward Dale Weise (who? EXACTLY!) missed decapitating Taylor Hall with the kind of elbow that would have made the Macho Man proud. I believe both Weise and Kassian will be disciplined by the league. The trickle down from these 2 events, by these 2 knuckle heads, should be noted. But before we do that, let’s look at the financial ramifications:
Weise + Kassian = $1,56M in salary.
Hall + Gagner = $10.8M in salary.
This is the equivalent of Chevy Cavalier rear-ending a Ferrari while texting-and-driving. Think about that for a second.
Back to the point:
With Gagner out until who-knows-when, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the shelf until at least November recovering from shoulder surgery, the Taylor Hall at Center Experiment is all but assured. Taylor will be challenged play and excel at a new position out of necessity. To add personal insult to the team pain, Hall’s chances of making Team Canada are all but squashed.
As an Oiler fan, I can admit it. Taylor Hall was a bit of a long-shot to make Team Canada on left-wing. Now he can forget about it. Even if he only plays 15 games at center he will then only have 15-25 games to prove he’s got what it takes to represent Canada on the wing. If playing at an elite level in multiple positions was “easy”, players would do it all the time. But they don’t ’cause it ain’t.
Clearly, I’m an Oiler fan. Obviously, I’m upset. Yes, my opinion may be a little slanted. But what if a repeat offender (Kassian), and a career minor leaguer (Weise) put your team’s already-slim-playoff-hopes on the brink and came 5 inches away from killing one of your best players and an Olympic hopeful? I think you’d be hot under the collar too. What dumps gas on this fire is the fact that it’s PRESEASON.
The league needs to send out a memo to owners and General Managers. The gist of it needs to be this: It’s bad for the league to have yahoos running around trying to “play intense” or “show that they have edge”, etc. in the preseason. If your player does something that warrants a suspension in the preseason, the franchise will be penalized with draft picks. I’m not saying do this in the regular season (although I might say that a few years from now) but it’s just down-right ridiculous in the preseason to have this level of injury and violence. How GM’s and Coaches deliver this message to their franchise is up to them.