Liles Out Indefinitely


Another name was added to the Maple Leafs‘ injured list today, as defenceman John-Michael Liles was placed on IR indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms.  The injury stems back to a hit he took from Paul Gaustad in the Leafs‘ 3-2 win over Buffalo on December 22nd.

Watch the replay of the hit after the jump.

While some may be apt to bemoan the fact that Gaustad did not receive a suspension for what turned out to be a hit resulting in “concussion-like symptoms”, a few points must be noted:

  • Although Liles proceeded directly to the dressing room (and presumably, the “quiet room”) after the hit, he did return to the game shortly thereafter.
  • The hit occurred in open ice, on a player in possession of the puck, whose body movements in the act of making a play on the puck contributed to the point of contact.
  • Further to that point, it is important to remember how fast these types of plays occur (in this instance, the puck possession-to-hit span was less than three seconds). Once Liles had lowered his body position to make a play on the puck, Gaustad was not able to slow his momentum and/or avoid contact.
  • As with any other type of injury, some head injuries are preventable and others simply are not. In this case, the timing of the play was the main contributor to the injury — as opposed to it being a case of “directly targeting the head”, running a player from behind, or taking a run at an opponent without the puck.

In essence, the rulebook can go only so far in preventing any one type of injury. The reality is that sometimes, these things are simply going to happen absent any definite fault on either side (or alternatively, with equal fault on both sides). If the “Fastest Game On Ice” advertising hasn’t already driven home the point, the game is built around speed. To that end, even the most vocal critics of the NHL’s disciplinary system have had to admit some contact is simply not possible to avoid within a playmaking window of mere seconds.

For fans, this type of play presents a classic rock and hard place scenario: just as not every “dirty” or illegal hit necessarily results in an injury, not every hit resulting in injury is necessarily a “dirty” or illegal play.

Or, to Gump it:

All that aside, the best Leafs‘ fans can do is hope for Liles’ to have a speedy recovery, and that his injury (which began with soreness in the neck) is more similar to that of James Reimer than some of the other head injuries we’ve seen over the course of the the past few seasons.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,