There has been little love lost between the Oilers’ kids and the Wild’s kids this year. While the Oilers had Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Magnus Paajarvi and Justin Schultz all playing in Oklahoma City, Minnesota had seven first and second round picks from the 2010-2011 drafts making their professional debuts with the Houston Aeros. The lockout certainly didn’t prevent the future/current top Oilers players from competing against the Wild’s future/current players. What makes things interesting is that it wasn’t 4/5ths of the Oilers’ top power play unit that dominated the matchups—it was Minnesota’s kids.
Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson all played well in the matchups—Zucker even had game-winning goals in two contests against Oklahoma City. In fact, the only game the Aeros lost to the Barons was the November 2nd game that saw injuries to both Granlund and top defenseman Jonas Brodin. After scoring four points in eight games as a defenseman advertised as “not physical or offensive whatsoever” at the 2011 draft, Brodin was hammered by a charging Taylor Hall—ensuring he’d be put on the shelf for a long time with a broken clavicle. And you thought Wild fans were mad then. Brodin says he thought it was a good hockey hit, but, as a soft spoken, mild-mannered Swedish rookie, he’s not the kind of kid to go berserk when something like that happens. Maybe that’s a good thing—let his play speak for itself.
Last night, I could have sworn that Minnesota was playing the New Orleans Saints. The Oilers knew that Zenon Konopka wasn’t in the lineup, so they relished the physical beating of Minnesota’s rookies and talent. They seemed to especially enjoy targeting Brodin, who played admirably against the physical punishment of the Oilers. Nothing seems to faze the kid, but he did look quite shaken after a hit in the corner late in the game that saw him struggle to his feet. Defenseman Nate Prosser, normally one of the grittier Wild blue-liners, also endured a good amount of physical attention. Fortunately, Minnesota shook it off and managed to increase their lead to two late in the game via a beautiful top shelf snipe by Matt Cullen. Things were looking great for Minnesota, and then Taylor Hall laid a massive open ice knee-on-knee hit on Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck was left struggling on the ice and was finally helped off by teammates while refusing to put any weight on his left leg. He did not return to the game.
Okay, Mr. Hall, look—I get that you’re frustrated because your team is down by two goals late in the game—but play with class and dignity. You were drafted first overall because of your elite offensive skills, not for your uncanny ability to injure players without facing hardly any discipline. Even though Konopka was sitting in the press box last night, you can be sure that, if the “Shanaban” doesn’t get you, Minnesota’s tough guys will the next time these two teams meet. That is, of course, if you don’t incur the wrath of another teams’ enforcer(s).
For a guy that has spent a good amount of time on the shelf with injuries yourself, one would think you’d be a little more careful and considerate with your hits. That type of play was inexcusable, plain and simple. Grow up. You are a vital part of the future for your franchise, and a role model to many, many people. Don’t think that, because your team also drafted Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, you have suddenly become expendable. Don’t think you have to resort to being a thug to keep your place on the team. You are an incredible player and have the potential to be one of the very best in the league—don’t resort to the lowest common denominator. Play with class, respect and dignity and others will treat you as such. Be Taylor Hall—not Jordan Tootoo or Raffi Torres. Keep playing the way you are right now, and you’ll have every enforcer in the National Hockey League to answer to. However, that may not be a bad thing—maybe the best thing is to learn by experience.
Dakota W. Case
Editor, Gone Puck Wild