'Leaving guys hanging' has become an epidemic in the NHL

NHL players have the bench ‘drive-by’ goal celebration figured out. So, why is it so tough when nobody is in motion? (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The start of the 2018-19 has provided fans with plenty of positives. The league’s superstars have been putting their best on display and we’ve seen many high-scoring contests.

The puck finding the back of the net at an increasing rate has directly resulted in more uncomfortable teammate interactions on benches following tallies, though. I don’t want people to get all riled up but I do believe that players missing each other’s invitations to tap knuckles (or ‘knucks’ as the kids call it) is reason to be concerned.

This is something that the league and its players need to address immediately before it gets any worse.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? I present to you Exhibit A from Thursday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and the Buffalo Sabres:


As you can see, San Jose’s newly acquired blueliner Erik Karlsson became stuck desperately looking for someone to tap his fist with theirs. When successful, it’s a gesture that shows cohesion. The ability to confidently present knucks in a team setting is crucial to the confidence of individuals and the squad as a whole. Getting frozen out like this goes completely against the type of culture a prosperous team wants to nurture.

Leaving Karlsson hangin’ is an understandable misstep by his fellow Sharks, though. Team chemistry is clearly building early in the campaign and knucks protocol needs to still be ironed out. It’s likely that his teammates didn’t know that Karlsson was a knucks kind of guy. The Swede may have very well sprung that on everyone out of nowhere and they didn’t know what to do in the moment.

Exhibit B and C (found within the clip below) have me much more worried about the state of the NHL, especially that of the defending Stanley Cup champions:


I have to admit, that’s tough to watch. The first victim from the Washington Capitals was Evgeny Kuznetsov. In his pursuit of some love last December, he is completely ignored and needs to knucks himself to avoid the embarrassment of being left out to dry for all eternity. Fast-forward to Friday night, his teammate Jakub Vrana has to endure the same fate; however, he is also able to bail himself out. Thankfully these two gentlemen had the confidence to get themselves out of pretty sticky situations. If they had been lesser individuals, I don’t know if the outcome would have been the same.

What I don’t understand is that these professional athletes have the bench ‘drive-by’ goal celebration down to a science. Why is it so difficult when neither player is in motion?

Astute observers may have noticed that in both Exhibit B and C it was Brett Connolly that either ignored or didn’t see the two pleasant knucks invitations. Whether purposeful or innocent, I believe that being a repeat offender is something that needs to be addressed in a players only meeting or something equivalent. This simply cannot happen anymore.

Teams need to be on the same page to be successful. If they can’t even execute basic knucks protocol on the bench, how are they supposed to get the job done on the ice?

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