Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Playoff injuries: Would I lie to you?

There are two rules when it comes to injuries at playoff time.

1. Everybody lies
2. If somebody swears they're telling the truth, see rule #1.

Everyone knows this. And yet, every year, the media allows itself to be played by clever coaches who feed them misinformation. Why? Because it gives them a neatly wrapped plot line to bang out a few stories with.

Let's look at the arguably the biggest injury story heading into this year's playoffs: Daniel Alfredsson.

To review, Alfredsson is KO'ed by an open ice hit from Mark Bell. The next day, Sens coach Bryan Murray immediately announces the Alfredsson has knee and neck injuries, and will be out for two weeks. Later, Murray hints that Alfredsson could be back for later rounds, but is definitely, positively out for the Penguins series.

The media dutifully writes down everything Murray says, and repeats it back on your nightly newscast and in the morning paper.

So Bryan Murray, a long-time veteran of NHL wars, sees his best player gets hurt right before the playoffs start, and he graciously volunteers to tell everyone exactly when he'll be back.

He's also kind enough to give specifics about the type of injuries. It's well known that Alfredsson has been dealing with back and hip issues for months, and the hit snaps his head back and leaves him crawling around the ice glassy eyed. But Murray clarifies that no, it's not his back or hip, and it's certainly not a head injury -- it's his knee and neck.


Now maybe Murray is telling the truth. Maybe he's just an honest guy, and he feels that personal integrity is more important than winning.

Or... maybe he's full of it. Maybe "two weeks" and "knee and neck" are just the latest in the proud history of playoff smokescreens.

And if so, Sens fans have to wonder: did Murray lie on the high side, or the low? Is he covering up for an Alfredsson injury that's more serious than he's letting on? Or is he setting the stage for the captain's dramatic "early" return?

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the storyline has been all about the Penguins resting Sidney Crosby in the season finale.The media has been breathlessly speculating about the Penguins' motive, and have concluded that they must have tanked the final game so that they could play the Senators and avoid the Flyers.


Just so we're clear, we're all supposed to think the Penguins are eager to play the defending conference champions, the team that happened to eliminate them easily last year. And they're trembling at the thought of playing the Flyers -- the same team that everyone was picking to miss the post-season a few days ago, and who recently lost back-to-back playoff atmosphere games to Toronto.

And in order to arrange this favorable matchup, they tanked the last game of the season by sitting out their best player, while leaving all their other good players in the lineup, re-inserting Gary Roberts, and also starting their first-string goaltender.

This makes sense to everyone?

Isn't there a simpler explanation? Like, let's say, Crosby still isn't fully recovered from his ankle injury and needed the extra time to try to get healthy.

That would seem like a big story, no? If the best player in the league was entering the playoffs at less than 100%, we'd want to know the details. How bad is he hurt? What's the risk of re-injury. When would he be fully recovered?

But no, Crosby says he's fine. And he wouldn't lie about something like this, so the media runs with the tanking angle.

OK, fine. I'll play along. Crosby's fine. Alfredsson will be back in exactly two weeks, once his knee and neck feel better.

Just remind me to act surprised when we find out the truth.


  1. There is an error in your article...Crosby is not the best player in the league. See Ovechkin.

  2. I have a blogging related lower body injury.

  3. Crosby is not the best player in the league. See Ovechkin.

    True. But I'm factoring in the catastrophic head injury that Ovechkin will suffer at some point in the Flyers series.

  4. Crosby is not the best player in the league. See Ovechkin.

    True. But I'm factoring in the catastrophic head injury that Ovechkin will suffer at some point in the Flyers series.

    Ah yes. I forgot about that.