It's not quite clear at this point. The Carolina Hurricanes' franchise player will undergo an MRI and probably a few other tests Friday evening in Raleigh, N.C., to determine the extent of the damage to his knee. Maybe nothing is wrong. Maybe it's just a contusion or a strain or something that can be corrected with a quick surgery and whole lot of rest, which he'll get because the Hurricanes stink.
Staal wasn't hurt playing for the Hurricanes, though. Alex Edler didn't deliver the knee-to-knee hit on Staal in an NHL game featuring the Hurricanes and Edler's Vancouver Canucks. The hit came on Thursday in the all-important IIHF Men's World Ice Hockey Championships in Stockholm - a tournament so important that Mike Smith is Canada's No. 1 goalie.
Now, this month-long battle for international ice hockey supremacy is pretty important to some people. All things considered, it's pretty fun to watch, and, hey, it's hockey, right? Another chance to prove America's brilliance and for Canada to lose a game that makes Don Cherry way xenophobic about letting evil Europeans play in the Canadian Hockey League. These are both great things.
Forgive me, though, for putting absolutely no stock in the results of the event. Like I said, Mike Smith is Canada's goalie. Now, Smith isn't exactly a bad goalie, and he, obviously, is honored to represent his country on the international stage, as he should be. But he is hardly Canada's first-choice netminder. The identity of that person is unclear at the moment, but it almost certainly can be narrowed down to Someone Who Isn't Mike Smith.
Two-hundred feet away from Smith on Thursday was Jhonas Enroth.
Jhonas Enroth, an actual NHL backup, is the guy expected to lead Tre Kronor to glory. Again, big ups to Enroth for earning the job and beating Canada. He's the guy, however, solely because other, better goalies had prior obligations or just don't care. As of now, Enroth is probably one of the three goalies on the roster for Sochi, but he isn't even a consideration for the No. 1 job.
There isn't anything wrong with international hockey. It's interesting, and it's a great celebration of the game we all love. Once every four years is enough, though. The Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament is always memorable. The battle between the U.S. and Canada in Vancouver last time around was truly one of the best hockey games any of us have ever seen. Moreover, the annual World Junior Championships are a great look into the future of this sport.
Every year, while North American hockey fans have their attentions set on the Stanley Cup playoffs, no matter the teams remaining, our pals in Europe live and die with the World Championships. Power to them, really, but what's the point of even participating for the U.S. and Canada? Few people really care, and the tournament serves only as a chance for players signed to massive contracts to get hurt, like Staal did on Thursday.
For the Americans, who play Switzerland in the semifinal on Saturday, its fate comes down to a collection of young players and the odd veteran drawn to the tournament because, again, representing his country is an honor. Should the U.S. win the tournament, which it hasn't done since 1960, I'll smile a few times and prattle on about the greatness of American hockey. But it won't mean anything.
Next February in Sochi, Russia, the best players in the world will represent their countries in the Olympics. The NHL will take its quadrennial hiatus as the hockey world shifts its eyes to this perfect few weeks of our game. The winner of that tournament will, rightfully, have bragging rights for the next four years. A few other teams will win World Championships in between, but no one will remember who a few months later.
After the 2010 Olympic tournament, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, rightfully stated that the World Championships should be cancelled in the Olympic years because, really, what's the point? Just this week, Adam Oates candidly dismissed the event as something he hated because, really, what's the point?
The U.S. and Switzerland will play on Saturday for a spot in the Gold Medal game, something the U.S. hasn't accomplished since its win in 1960. For the U.S. to get past the Swiss, it'll need big games from Paul Stastny, John Gibson and Jacob Trouba.
Really, what's the point?