Why hockey needs Kaspars Daugavins

March 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s something he has done before — successfully, I might add — but Kaspars Daugavins went for it again: he pressed the toe of his blade into the puck and took off, barrelling down on Tuukka Rask. Ripping a quick spin-o-rama, Daugavins tried to bury the puck, which was still tucked tightly under the toe of his stick, but was denied. He skated back to the bench with his head down. But today his attempt has the hockey world talking.

I’d like to say I fall in line with the majority of hockey fans when saying that I’m not a proponent of the shootout, but that would be a lie. While I understand the merit of deciding a game with extra hockey, and with the notions of 3-on-3 or expanded overtime being bandied about, I have to admit there’s something that encapsulates me about the one-on-one between a shooter and goaltender. I want to see supremely skilled players do things with a puck that I could barely dream of, and I want to have those ideas inspire others to try jaw-dropping moves and carry on an era of shootout flare.

This is where Daugavins comes in. Post-game, David Krejci — whose Bruins squad Daugavins tried his awe-inspiring attempt against — said he wouldn’t be pleased if a player on his own team tried that. I’m not Nostradamus, but I’d venture a guess and say Krejci would probably be having a laugh on the bench if, say, Brad Marchand had pulled that out of his bag of tricks.

Think about the most memorable goals from the near decade of hockey that has been played since the inception of the NHL’s shootout era. If you didn’t think immediately about Marek Malik’s between-the-legs, Pavel Datsyuk’s signature deke, or Patrick Kane mesmerizing Niklas Backstrom, I’d be surprised. Those are moves that were played on highlight reels throughout the continent. They are what sells the game.

We have engaged in the fighting debate enough to come to the conclusion that, in reality, it likely is no longer really selling the game. But when a fan sees something like Daugavins attempt? You can guarantee they think about watching a bit more puck to see what these guys can do.

I don’t doubt that Ryan Lambert was on to something today he brought up the point about Daugavins and Linus Omark — whose shootout attempts became something of legend — were both European players. That, no doubt, probably has a bit to do with the scrutiny Daugavins is facing from fellow players. Surely, Good Canadian Boy Sidney Crosby would never do something outlandish in the midst of a game that wouldn’t be considered classy.

The problem here is hockey’s archaic view of right and wrong. Many in the league would decry Daugavins attempt because hockey has some obsession with the “old school,” and an inherent want to stay true to the form it has always been. As Lambert also pointed out, hockey is more inclined to accept a borderline hit and chalk it up to part of the game than they are to embrace creative play that can bring fans to their feet.

There is nothing wrong with what Daugavins did. It is — in a more literal sense than hits from behind and staged fights — part of the game. He was within his bounds to attempt it, and if he had scored, I would have applauded the next to try it.

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