By now, everyone has heard the obvious inferences to Kermit the Frog, but the fact is that it probably is easy to be Mike Green, just less so these days.
Mere weeks after being left off the Canadian Olympic men's hockey team, the only logical reason arguably being that his 10th-best +/- rating (+22) in the National Hockey League didn't constitute enough of a defensive-minded presence for general manager Steve Yzerman, Green has run into a few other problems.
On Saturday, Green was suspended three games for an elbow to the head of the Florida Panthers's Michael Frolik, which took place the night before. Also in that game, he left with an apparent knee injury after defenseman Dmitry Kulikov collided with him.
So, admittedly things aren't quite as rosy for Green right now as they were last year when he was a runner-up to winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy, but for any Capitals fans who may be up in arms over this recent bout of bad luck that has overwhelmed the talented young star, a little reality check, if I may:
Yes, Green's +/- rating is right up there with some of the more defensively aware players in the game, but maybe, just maybe, a simple statistic doesn't tell the whole story. Green is, after all, the premier offensive force on the blue line for the highest-scoring team in hockey.
Indeed, the Capitals lead the league in goals scored by 24 goals (the second-highest-scoring team is the San Jose Sharks, who have 187 goals to Washington's 211; Washington has also played one fewer game, by the way). So, it would be logical to deduce that at least a part of that sparkling +22 rating has come as a direct result of playing with the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and, and… oh, seems my mind is drawing a blank. Don't the Caps have another Alexander playing for them?
Whatever that other Alexander's last name is, one cannot deny that Green has been a huge beneficiary of the talents of those in front of him, so much so that I would argue that if he were on another team, any other team (except the Chicago Blackhawks or the aforementioned Sharks), he wouldn't even be in the same stratosphere in terms of statistics as any of the lucky few defensemen that did get picked to play for Team Canada.
Of course, facts are facts, and he does lead all defensemen in scoring with 52 points in 52 games, so any hypothetical argument to be made doesn't hold much water, admittedly. In this instance, giving him the benefit of the doubt seems like the way to go…
Moving on, his elbow on Frolik was clearly a penalty at the very least (he did get two minutes in the game). More visibly, however, it was more than that. No, it wasn't as vicious as some of the other head shots hockey fans have bore witness to in the recent past, but yes, all it takes to severely injure someone is to elbow someone ever so slightly as they try to speed past you. Luckily, Frolik wasn't speeding at the time of the transgression.
Whether or not the elbow was in retaliation to a bodycheck by Panther Cory Stillman a few moments earlier is irrelevant. If it was, it makes Green look all the worse for taking exception on an innocent bystander with a cheap shot. If it wasn't, all it means is that Green can't play defense properly, and, in that instance, please refer to the aforementioned Olympic situation.
With regards to the Kulikov hit, it is clear that Green was the victim there, but, if you take a look at the hit, it is abundantly clear that Kulikov wasn't the victimizer: He didn't stick his knee out, and, as such, Green's subsequent knee injury is more just an unfortunate byproduct of the otherwise clean open-ice check than anything else.
So, Green will sit out his three games, which he may or may not have missed anyway with a flukey injury, and now has the time to think about all the new and interesting ways he can improve his defensive-zone coverage, so, by the time the 2014 Olympic Games roll around, whoever's putting together Canada's hockey team will have no choice but to select Green and the dual threat he has hopefully become by then (if professional players will be allowed to go to Russia).
Oh, yeah. He will also forfeit $81,606.21 because of the suspension, but please realize that in spite of all the recent allusions to a certain frog, one other comparison to Green, that he has a lot of it, remains unspoken. He makes $5,000,000 per year to play a game that he loves. Please don't feel sorry for him. I'm sure he doesn't.