Alexis Lafreniere’s reverse hit on Mikhail Sergachev sparks GM debate

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The fallout from Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev requiring surgery to stabilize fractures in his left leg is continuing. After a reverse hit by New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere, it’s expected that NHL general managers will be scrutinizing these type of hits further.

“A terrible end result for Mikhail Sergachev,” Darren Dreger reported on TSN’s Insider Trading. “The consensus is that Alexis Lafreniere didn’t do anything wrong, but it was a reverse hit. Generally, people in the hockey community and the general managers don’t like it.”

After the injury, debates began on social media among fans and experts alike regarding the incident. Ultimately, it will be the League that must decide it will do anything to either curb or eliminate such contact.

“What I can tell you is that the reverse hit has been discussed at the GM level in the past, and it will be high on the agenda when they meet in March,” Dreger said.

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Alexis Lafreniere reverse hit sparks debate

NHL: New York Rangers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Lightning on Wednesday, Sergachev went to line up Lafreniere for a hit near the boards. Realizing contact was inevitable, Lafreniere put his shoulder into Sergachev causing the defender to fall backwards.

Unfortunately for Sergachev, who was playing his first game back after a long injury stint, his left leg got caught in the ice. On the way down, you could see his left ankle achieve an impossible angle as he immediately cried out in pain.

The scene at the Garden was extremely somber with every player on the ice shaken, especially Lafreniere. As Sergachev left the ice on a stretcher, the Rangers young forward gave him a gentle tap on the leg.

“He’s a really tough kid and there were emotions coming out,” Tampa coach Jon Cooper said. “It was clear the Rangers cared for him, they all cleared the bench. It’s a little bit more than hockey when it comes down to things like that.”

If anyone understood what Lafreniere was going through, it was Rangers captain Jacob Trouba. Back in December of 2021, he laid out Chicago Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira with a clean open-ice hit, that landed him in the hospital.

“It’s obviously something you never want to see. I’ve seen a couple of them, I’ve been one of them once. It’s kind of a helpless feeling,” Trouba said Wednesday. “The scariest part is the unknown. We’re all thinking about [Sergachev].”

While the debate rages on, I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with the reverse hit, as long as it’s clean. I’m not sure how you can ask a player, who knows they are about to get hit, to just sit there and take it?

The reverse hit is nothing new. Matter of fact, it’s probably cleaner than it was decades ago when sticks and elbows would intentionally go up on the player coming in for the hit.

Ultimately, the onus is going to fall on the player delivering the hit to be aware that it could be reversed on them. Will that be where the league lands on the subject? We’ll learn more in March.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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