The NHL's general managers meet Tuesday in Toronto and there is going to be great debate about Rule 48, the league's new blindside headshot initiative.
Among the angriest attendees is Doug Wilson, who went into "Hulk Smash!" mode when Joe Thornton was handed a two-game suspension last week. But what Wilson - and every other GM - should really be concerned about is this: do they really care about the alarming number of concussions suffered this season?
If the answer is, "Yes we care," then the group will just have to deal with the fact this rule is in its infancy. That means confusion, inconsistency - all the fun stuff that drives everyone crazy.
When the obstruction crackdown arrived after the lockout, one of the biggest critics was arguably hockey's most respected voice, Steve Yzerman. During an HNIC interview, he called the standard, "unrealistic." He was far from the only person who felt that way.
Despite that, the process continued and the game returned to its stars. It was short-term pain for long-term gain. This season, we are approaching 30 concussions (I counted 29, including Paul Kariya), which puts the league on pace for approximately 175. That would smash the 2000-01 record of 109.
I don't personally support a total hit-to-head ban, so let's look at it from a cut-throat's point of view. If I'm a GM, I'm looking at that number and saying, "Odds are, I'm going to see six concussions on my team. How is that going to affect my chances?" If I'm an owner, I'm saying, "How much money am I paying to guys who can't play? And how many home playoff dates am I going to lose because of it?"
Now if the answer is, "No, we don't care about the concussion explosion," then repeal the rule for next season and whatever happens happens. If they don't care, why should we?
1. Wilson did raise one interesting issue: that the Thornton hit was very similar to Willie Mitchell/Jonathan Toews, which is considered acceptable under the new guidelines. This is going to lead to a lot of debate about hitters coming out of the penalty box. Players will tell you that anyone skating by is extremely vulnerable because you're not expecting someone to come from there. David Perron was much closer to the boards than Toews, which gave him less time to react.
2. The St. Louis training staff deserves credit for pulling Perron off the ice the moment he reported dizziness Saturday morning, but I still wonder how anyone who goes down and stays down after a hit like that is allowed to return in-game so quickly. A second collision would have been very serious.
3. Class move of the week: Zach Parise. The restricted free agent-to-be - and UFA in 2012 - selected his new agent, Wade Arnott of Newport Sports (brother of Parise's teammate, Jason). Before making it public, Parise phoned the other contenders so they'd hear the final decision from him. In a time where some athletes fire representation by text message, that's a nice move.
4. Angela James and Cammi Granato are the first female inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight, but the Hall needs to create a new committee for selecting women. The current selectors don't have enough expertise beyond the extremely obvious candidates (They'd admit that, too). A player like Jayna Hefford will eventually be a great choice, but she doesn't have name recognition. Give James and Granato votes and, whenever someone else makes it, add them too, until you have a large enough group (Lori Dupuis would also be a good choice to vote).
5. Who wants to see Jaroslav Halak versus Carey Price in the all-star game? I know it doesn't count, but too bad it's not in Montreal.
6. Last month, Cory Clouston wouldn't move Sergei Gonchar from the left to the defenceman's favoured right side on the power-play. "That's the way (our power play) is designed," the coach said. Wise choice to change. Put your players in the best position to succeed.
7. Don't think Darcy Regier will ever fire Lindy Ruff. They're a package deal.
8. If one goal can save a season, Jochen Hecht did it for Buffalo with 17 seconds remaining to force overtime on Saturday and Paul Mara with 1.7 seconds left to win it for Anaheim on Sunday.
9. Bobby Ryan, who set up Mara's winner, via Twitter after the game: "[Steve] Sullivan thanked me for giving him a breakaway in the first. Oops."
10. Clarke MacArthur on the difference between Ruff and Ron Wilson: "Wilson is looser, more sarcastic, much less serious ... with Lindy, it's all business, all the time." Wasn't a rip, just an observation.
11. Tim Connolly was roasted in Buffalo for this goal but was it his fault or Jason Pominville's for leaving the point and taking away Connolly's safe play?
12. Regier disagrees with this theory: Some of Tyler Myers' struggles may have to do with the loss of Henrik Tallinder. Last year, when the rookie got into trouble, he'd smartly get the puck to his mobile partner, who'd skate it out of difficulty. Shaone Morrisonn doesn't have Tallinder's mobility and there is the sense that gives Myers fewer options out of danger.
13. Myers is extremely hard on himself. The Sabres are constantly telling him to let go of mistakes and his improvement in the past two games may be a result of that.
14. Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press asked Tyler Ennis about the best height-related insult he'd ever received. One of the Canadiens asked, "Where's the rest of you?" Ennis couldn't remember who it was, but I'm not betting on Brian Gionta.
15. Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth got a similar reaction when he first showed up. One Sabre said, "You've got to be kidding? This is our [bleeping] goalie?" Enroth is listed as 5-foot-10, but if he's that tall, I'm the Brad Pitt of sideline reporters.
16. Ron Wilson said he was against the coach's challenge idea because it "embarrasses" the referees. Now there are a few things to figure out before the NHL adopts this idea, but that shouldn't be one. People recognize how hard it is to officiate this game. It's not about embarrassing anyone, it's about getting the call right.
17. Quick follow-up to last week's blog: One of the reasons pro leagues are having trouble finding new referees? They are treated so terribly at the youth level and give up. That's awful.
18. There is a lot of jealousy towards Guy Boucher and that's where Patrick Roy's shot at the Lightning coach came from. The complaint? Got his chance too quickly. I've always hated that thinking. If you deserve it - and it sure looks like Boucher does - good for you.
19. Agent Allan Walsh went public with his displeasure of Martin Havlat's ice time on Oct. 27. Before the Festivus "airing of grievances," Havlat averaged 15 minutes per game. Since? Almost 20.
20. You may have read that an Alexander Ovechkin shot smashed Tim Brent's knee pad last Wednesday in Washington. The incredible thing about it is that it hit the front of the knee dead on, which is the most protected part of that padding. Neither Brent nor the Toronto equipment guys had ever seen that kind of damage from a shot before.
21. Brent said three days later he was still bruised and sore, which gives you an idea of how badly he'd be hurt if it didn't hit there.
22. That's why Chris Rooney and Frederick L'Ecuyer made a great common-sense non-call Sunday night. In the terrific Philadelphia-Washington game, Sergei Bobrovsky froze the puck outside his crease. Should be a penalty, but they ignored it because Bobrovsky's pad slipped off his leg. Imagine a shot hits him in the exposed area.
23. Why it works in Detroit: Mike Modano went eight games without a point. During that span, there was one minus-3 game and two minus-2 games. Mike Babcock could have benched him. Probably had reason to bench him. But he doesn't do it, not embarrassing his GM, who chased Modano all summer.
24. Very early comeback player of the year: Brent Burns.
25. Matt Duchene was benched in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Vancouver, came back with two assists in 18 minutes in a 5-0 blowout of Dallas. Probably what Joe Sacco wanted. Sounds like Duchene, though, struggles a bit with his coach's tough-love approach. Not what he's used to.
26. With Pittsburgh sputtering, there were some rumblings that Tom Fitzgerald would be back on the bench. He was an important part of the 2009 Stanley Cup winner as an assistant. Doesn't sound like that's going to happen, though.
27. It took all of 13 games, but reporters were asking Brian Burke about Wilson's job security on Sunday. Burke brushed it off, telling The Toronto Star, "It's a very bizarre twist to this marketplace that when players play poorly, the coach gets hollered at. This is new for me. In Vancouver, when the players played poorly, the players got blasted. so I'm perplexed by this." For years, this opinion has been shared by all of Toronto's teams. They can't believe how the coaches and GMs get cheese-grated in that city.
28. Wilson publicly defended Tyler Bozak when he sat the centre a week ago. But when he felt the Bozak/Kessel/Versteeg line did not respond to private critiques about shift length and gap control, he unloaded on all of them.
29. Easy to forget Bozak's only played 50 NHL games. Mike Richards benefitted from getting his butt kicked by the Eastern Conference's best centres for a year. Bozak needs that, too (Let's make it clear, I don't think he'll be a Mike Richards, but he has ability to be a good player).
30. Talk that Andrew Ladd could become the captain in Atlanta. Would really love to hear Mike Milbury's thoughts on that (Now he's going to have to blog about the captaincy. Surprisingly, Mike has a strong opinion).
(Photos of Joe Thornton and Tyler Myers by Getty Images)
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