Some say Dustin Brown’s hit of Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl last week was an accident. Replays appear to show that Brown was trying to avoid the 20-year-old rising star when the knee-on-knee collision occurred late in the first period on Dec. 19.
Others aren’t so forgiving of the Los Angeles captain, who has a history of “accidental” hits that result in significant injuries to his opponent. Brown’s apparent lack of empathy towards Hertl hasn’t helped his reputation among his detractors, either.
The game moves so quickly these days, there’s really only one guy who knows what the actual intent was, and that’s Brown himself. CSNCalifornia.com asked our own analyst, former NHL defenseman Bret Hedican, what he thought of the hit that quite possibly ended Hertl’s season.
“Looking at the play after the fact, it’s easy to say the officials made the right call or the wrong call. At that level and at that speed of the game, the officials called it as a knee-on-knee hit. The way Dustin Brown plays on the edge, you would think that, yes, it was intentional,” Hedican said.
“After looking at it again, he did at least attempt to get out of the way. But, knowing the way Dustin Brown plays and understanding the mindset, he was going down those railroad tracks to do one thing -- to clean Tomas Hertl’s clock.
“Hertl chipped it away in enough time to not have Dustin Brown hit him clean. Hertl did try to get out of the way. But, I have a hard time thinking to myself with the history that Brown has had, that Brown clearly wanted to get out of the way of that hit.”
Hertl leaves a void in the Sharks’ lineup, and head coach Todd McLellan has been forced to move Joe Pavelski into a top six role, which tends to hurt the Sharks’ scoring depth. So far, though, San Jose has claimed a pair of shootout wins since Hertl went on the shelf.
According to Hedican, GM Doug Wilson has some work to do in order to fill that hole, but Wilson probably didn’t expect Hertl to have the kind of impact that he did so soon into his first NHL season.
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“I think in looking at Hertl, they didn’t expect him coming into the season to be the guy that he has been,” Hedican said. “Now that the injury has happened, it’s a big loss for the hockey team. They’ve got to find a way for other guys to step up.
“You’ve got Raffi Torres potentially coming back after the Olympic break and that should help, but Doug is going to have to do a lot to fill that 15-goal hole.”