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Let's not draw parallels between Mason Raymond and Nathan Horton incidents

6/14/2011

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Let's start with this: The broken vertebra suffered by Mason Raymond 20 seconds into Game 6 is a horrific injury.

Vancouver GM Mike Gillis told reporters Tuesday that the Canucks will be lucky to have the skilled forward back in their lineup by November and that Raymond faces a long, difficult journey to recover from the "vertebrae compression fracture."

"We're hopeful there won't be surgery at this point," Gillis told reporters at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. "Like I said, it's a severe injury, and we'll know more over the next week when he gets back here. At this point, they're hopeful that it won't require surgery, that it has the opportunity to heal on its own. He's going to face a long, hard recovery. We've been told it's going to be very challenging for him and he's going to be in a difficult position for some time."

One can only imagine the despair the winger must feel at remaining in a Boston hospital, waiting to be fitted with a corset that will allow him to travel, while his teammates head home for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night.

But let's also be clear about another thing. To draw a line from the Raymond injury, which occurred when he was awkwardly taken into the boards by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk, to the four-game suspension of Vancouver defenseman Aaron Rome after a vicious hit on Nathan Horton early in Game 2 of the series is to try to connect dots that shouldn't be connected.

The series supervisor, NHL executive Mike Murphy, told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the league believes the Game 6 play, which did not result in a penalty to Boychuk, was called correctly on the ice. As a result, there will be no supplemental discipline to Boychuk.

We have watched the Boychuk/Raymond play over and over. The puck was in the area when the two players engaged between the Boston net and the corner. Raymond ended up bent over facing Boychuk, and their shared momentum carried Raymond backward into the boards. We have looked for the telltale end-of-play shove that sometimes turns routine checks into dangerous checks, but we don't see it.

The league believes the play was a standard defensive-zone coverage maneuver, and the officials' view afforded them a good look at the play and it was called correctly.

Gillis referred to the play as a can opener, a pre-lockout play that was a favorite of defensemen such as Toronto's Bryan McCabe, in which the defender positions the stick between an oncoming forward's legs and spins him with his body weight into the boards.

"I didn't see the puck around him," Gillis said. "I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back. That's what I saw. I don't have much more to say about that other than that observation."

The Vancouver GM did not come out and say he thought Boychuk should have been suspended, although he implied as much when asked about the incident as it related to the Rome suspension that followed news Horton would not return for the balance of the playoffs because of a concussion.

"I'm not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I'm not the right person to ask about that," Gillis said. "I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me, [it's] very, very dangerous, and you know, I'm always disappointed when you see any player get injured.

"But it wasn't a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae. It's broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it's a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that."

Perhaps the only connection between the two serious injuries in this series was in how Rome described his hit on Horton: a hockey play gone bad.

We don't agree with his assessment of his hit on Horton; it came well after Horton had passed the puck and he targeted the Boston winger's head. But the assessment is the perfect description of what happened to Rome's teammate Raymond.

As for Gillis, he made headlines between Games 6 and 7 in the first round against Chicago when he suggested the officiating wasn't balanced. The Canucks went on to defeat Chicago in overtime in that deciding game.

Gillis was much more circumspect Tuesday. Well, sort of. When asked whether he was frustrated by the way the calls had gone in the finals series, he replied, "That's a question I don't think I can answer without getting myself into trouble under any circumstances, so I'm not going to answer that. It isn't right for me to speculate or to comment on officiating."