Trevor Zegras: “Skilling It Up”, A Good or Bad Thing?
“When I watch Trevor, this is just another unreal skill set and a creative way to score goals. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to stick up for my player in the sense that there are people who think this is hot-dogging or not respecting the game………..When Trevor and I have talked about the game, he understands. He respects the game and he respects the traditions of the game.
Anaheim Ducks GM Pat Verbeek
Who would’ve thought that an early April game between the Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes would still be a talking point two weeks later. Certainly not me but such is the world we live in and thanks to things like Twitter and podcasts here we are still discussing it. In case you live under a rock these comments from GM Pat Verbeek are in response to Arizona Coyotes commentator Tyson Nash having issue with Trevor Zegras and some of the other young Ducks “skilling it up” during a 5-0 win over Arizona on April 2nd.
Towards the end of the game with the Ducks looking for a loose puck, Coyotes forward Jay Beagle cross-checked Zegras multiple times and then started punching Troy Terry who came to Zergas’ aide but had no interest in, nor engaged in any sort of fight. While this occurred Nash stated; “This is the problem with these young players, you want to embarrass guys, you want to skill it up, you better be prepared to get punched in the mouth”.
This drew the ire of the hockey world, however Nash by and large has stood by his comments. Even going on numerous podcasts and stating he would not change much of what he said. Only elaborating that he truly enjoys Zegras and what he brings to the NHL but standing by his statements and with what Beagle did. Originally I wanted to stay far away from this but as it continues to be a story I thought it best as an Anaheim Ducks fan site we should address it. Is Nash right or way off base?
First and foremost, let’s not bury the lead and force people to read paragraph after paragraph to discover my answer. Tyson Nash is patently wrong for the way he stated things and for condoning the way Jay Beagle handled things. However, to all the people throwing shade his way, and saying he doesn’t understand the current NHL game and still believes we live in a bygone era of hockey, you have swung the pendulum to far the other way. As with most things in life people cannot seem to find the middle ground but here it is.
Trevor Zegras is a star, he is going to be the next face of the Anaheim Ducks, one of the best players in the game, and a face of the game for the next decade plus. He is fast, creative, skilled, fearless, and shows all the signs of being a leader on and off the ice. That is why Anaheim Ducks fans will love him and by and large fans of the other 31 teams will hate him, because he isn’t on their team. Should Zegras stop the alley-oop passes, lacrosse goals, and unbelievable plays? Absolutely not. Will continuing to do those things put a target on his back and lead to him taking harder hits whenever opponents get the chance? Absolutely.
Jay Beagle was 100% in the wrong about how he handled things as was Tyson Nash, however this sentiment that Zegras will just be allowed to embarrass people without repercussions is also patently wrong. I have played hockey all my life, nowhere near the professional level but no matter the level this will always remain true, every player cares about the game and never wants to be embarrassed by the opponent. This is why you play; this is why you keep score; this is why there is a drive to win every single minute, every single shift, every single game. When that drive goes away it should be the day you hang up your skates. So no opposing players should not punch a guy who has no interest in fighting or who is already down on the ice. But to think Zegras has a protective shield around him and cannot be touched is also wrong. Had Beagle made a hard, legal check on Zegras during the course of play to send a message that’s how the game is played. You operate within the rules and send a message to the young kid.
Hockey is a battle, and you need to work for every inch. Zegras should not expect that opponents will back off and I don’t believe he does. He battles and earns every inch of ice he takes out there. This will lead to him taking added abuse as opponents battle to take back the ice he has earned. There is nothing wrong with playing hard and keeping the physicality in the game. That is one of the best parts of hockey and especially what makes the playoffs specifically so great. That needs to remain in the game.
Nash and Beagle handled the situation incorrectly and went over the line, but the underlying sentiment is not entirely wrong on their part. It wont stop Zegras from scoring unbelievable goals and being a star in this league and nor should it. But lets not put the “kid gloves” on the sport. Keep it within the rules, play hard, and Zegras keep skilling it up!