Johnson: Stajan’s head still ringing after Coyle’s head-hunting hit
Flames leaving any punishment possibilities in the hands of Shanahan, but forward lobbies for better crackdowns
DENVER — Being carted off on a gurney or in traction shouldn’t be, can’t be, a prerequisite for levying punishment. Length of time missed, for that matter, either.
The fact that Matt Stajan actually returned to active duty the same night with his head still attached to his body should have no bearing on the severity of the incident itself.
The act, not the outcome, is what matters. Presumably.
Watching the replay again and again of Charlie Coyle’s shoulder-shudder to Stajan’s noggin near the end of the second period Xcel Energy Center that netted the Minnesota Wild rookie a five-minute “elbowing” major makes you wonder.
Malicious? Arguably not. Pre-meditated? Probably not. Careless and potentially damaging? Most definitely. The shoulder, not the elbow, makes clear contact with the head area. Coyle lunges upwards to make the hit. Stajan has released the puck at least two or three steamboats prior to impact.
And all the convenient letter-of-the-law clauses, interpretive loopholes and convenient semantics can’t change those facts.
You can bet the kids’ college fund that if the same thing had happened to, say, Zach Parise, the Minnesota Wild would be screaming bloody murder.
“I have my opinion,” said Stajan at the Pepsi Center, following a practice early Wednesday afternoon (he’d declined to comment on the incident following the game Tuesday),”you guys have yours and I’m sure there’s people that say that I faked the whole thing.
“Which is total bull----, if they think that, ‘cause he caught me right square in the face and it didn’t feel too good.
“To say I feel great today would be a blatant lie. My jaw’s locked up and my neck is stiff. I don’t have a concussion, thankfully.
“You can’t wait for someone to have a serious injury to have an opinion on a hit.
“I’d like to see that jersey numbers, who takes the hit and who makes the hit, (are) taken out of it. Any time you take a blow to the head like that it dazes you. I’ve had concussions in the past. I’m thankful that I’m feeling good today.
“I just wanted to make sure I was OK. I’m a little sore today. Jaw’s sore. My neck ... but luckily no headache and passed all the concussion protocol at the end of the second and after the game.
“I wasn’t expecting it to come at my head but it happened.”
Coyle reportedly spoke with NHL Brendan Shanahan on Wednesday, as a matter of course on major penalties, and has escaped further punishment. No hearing was set, meaning the league felt the head was not the primary target.
Flames’ coach Bob Hartley is happy that his centreman isn’t more badly hurt (Stajan, in fact, returned for the final 20 and was, in fact, thwarted by Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on a key short-handed breakaway attempt), but added that any additional sanctioning of Coyle, being out of his control, was not something he’d obsess about one way or the other.
“(Stajan) looks fine. He was dazed for a while. They kept him in, and five minutes before going on the ice for the third period, Mo (athletic therapist Morris Boyer) came to me and said ‘Staje is good to go.’ That was real good news.
“It was a hit to the head. The league reviews everything. I remember when I was coaching junior, I don’t know why we weren’t sponsored by Purolator. It was, like, the war of the cassettes — how many cassettes you send in a season more than the other teams. I’m sure the person in charge of discipline was recycling VHS cassettes every week.
“Today you don’t have to call. They look at every play. Brendan Shanahan is in charge of player safety so if him and his committee think there’s a need to talk to Coyle, they will.
“On my side, we have no energy for this.”
Stajan, needless to say, will not be amused.
“Yeah, I saw a replay. I knew he was coming, so I braced myself to get hit. But he obviously came right at my head. I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re trying to get out of the game. It’s not like it was a bang-bang play, either. It seemed like he had a couple seconds there to know what he was doing.
“I don’t know if his intention was to come at my head but he definitely did. Anybody who wants to dispute that, I don’t know what they’re watching. We’ll see what the league does but I’d like to think that’s we’re trying to get ride of in this league.
“Especially where the puck’s long gone and had nothing to do with the play.”
Considering the potential for more serious injury, Matt Stajan, dealing only with a sore neck and wonky jaw the day after and a good-to-go for tonight, got off easy.
Sounds, though, as if Charlie Coyle — sentenced to only five minutes in stir — might’ve gotten off easier.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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