Canadiens' Max Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a broken vertebrae after taking a hit by Boston
Bruins' Zdeno Chara on Mar. 8 in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
What a week in the NHL. The Pacioretty fallout was so explosive that, in Canada, it completely erased the Phoenix-to-Winnipeg story. That's pretty tough to do.
First and foremost, you hope Pacioretty makes a full recovery
and returns to play, eventually. As for change to the game, it seemed uncertain. Many league executives and GMs were reacting angrily to criticism. Meanwhile, two days after the winger was hurt, one player said, "If it happened in Atlanta, and not Montreal, nobody would be making a big deal about it."
I disagreed and told him this was different. One night later, RJ Umberger took Drew Doughty into the stanchion
at Nationwide Arena and there was so little reaction, it could've happened on Mars. Consider this my public admission of defeat.
The good news is that the people who matter were paying attention.
A few years ago, during a playoff game, there was a big hit and someone from the visitors was taken off on a stretcher. That team was not traveling with its own doctor, so the home team's physician came over while I waited near the medical room for an update. About 15 minutes passed until the doctor walked out and loudly said, "Concussion!" Suffice it to say, the visiting team's staff FREAKED. As the GM later explained, it was unacceptable for a doctor to walk into a crowded hallway and announce that without first giving a private diagnosis.
He said something like, "This is why you can never trust the other team's doctors when it really matters."
Considering this GM is still employed, Monday's announcement that players will be pulled from games if they show concussion-like symptoms is pretty significant. While some teams do travel their own doctors -- especially during playoff time -- many don't. So, unless the league is hiring 30 independents to do these examinations, teams are putting safety ahead ahead of suspicion.
This is a big step. So is the prospect of fining coaches and/or teams who accumulate suspensions. (The details will be refined over the next couple of months and presented to the Governors in June.) Some players thought that would never happen.
Don Cherry and I see the game differently, but his rant about the Bell Centre's seamless glass was absolutely bang-on correct
. Players have been complaining about it for years. It's a sad irony that Pacioretty's injury occurred just months before changes will finally be made. We've also been worrying about dangerous shoulder and elbow pads for a decade. Too often, safety issues were a secondary concern at best and bargaining chip between the NHL and the NHLPA at worst.
The league itself wasn't the alone on guilt. While Donald Fehr's statement last week emphasized safety, several players have been quietly critical of the NHLPA's efforts. Six weeks ago, Darryl Boyce went into one of the photographers' holes at the Air Canada Centre and smashed his nose. That injury came three years after then-Duck Ryan Carter fractured his right wrist when he put his arm through one. The Penguins and Capitals playing through the Winter Classic rain didn't go unnoticed. And, at the Heritage Classic in Calgary, there were no NHLPA reps at the Saturday night Alumni Game, where the ice conditions were dangerous.
But, Monday's announcements show hope for the future. The arrivals of Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake into the NHL, and Mathieu Schneider into the PA, led to the proposed seamless glass changes. A committee of Shanahan, Blake, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk makes tremendous sense.
But I still wonder about the competition committee, because rules changes can't be made without it. Right now, it meets once a year. That's not enough.
Before the 2009 NHL Draft, the committee met in Montreal and was presented with approximately 30 questionable hits. The 10 members were asked to say which of those hits should result in automatic ejection. The catch: they could only call it as a referee would, in regular speed with no replays. How many did they agree on?
You're not going to solve anything with one meeting a year like that. If you have the group meet three or four times, via webcast or whatever, you have a greater chance at consensus. You also give the members the opportunity to discuss the issues with their peers to get more opinion. That way, if something really matters, you don't have to wait an extra year to do something about it.
Too many important decisions have been put off too long. I'm an optimist by nature. I'd like to believe these changes will make a great game even greater.30 THOUGHTS1.
Good luck, Michael Farber. Long-time (and terrific) hockey writer told Montreal radio station CJAD he is battling cancer. 2.
Canadiens' owner Geoff Molson met with his players Monday
to discuss the Pacioretty aftermath. How different will the now-infamous stanchion look when the Canadiens host Washington Tuesday night?3.
In the commissioner's address to the media today
, he said only eight per cent of concussions come from fights. If players who fight were immediately taken to see a doctor instead of sitting in the box for five minutes, how much higher would that number be? 4.
Sounds like we should be expecting more charging calls. Probably a very good idea. 5.
Based on the Schneider interview from Inside Hockey
, the players want changes to supplemental discipline as part of the next CBA. Two ideas they are considering pitching: a discipline committee and a detailed list of punishments, which would eliminate the guesswork. For example, if you commit (pick an offence) you get (xx amount of games). 6.
Schneider will resign his seat on the competition committee shortly. But it sounds like he wants to wait until after the season to see what happens with Mike Commodore. If Commodore is not in the NHL next season, he'll probably be asked to resign, too. 7.
Pacioretty's a pretty interesting person. He wasn't afraid to say earlier this season that he'd rather be a first-line AHLer than a fourth-line NHLer. A member of the Canadiens' organization said they made a mistake rushing him to the NHL, but when I asked him about that in Hamilton, he couldn't disagree fast enough. Last week, when the team wanted him to stay silent, he spoke out and then opened a twitter account. This is a guy who stands up for what he believes in.8.
The only critique I heard about Pacioretty: Surprise that he would try to take the outside lane on Chara. 9.
The Canadiens players deserve a lot of credit. They didn't let Tuesday's game degenerate after their teammate was carried off. Following the emotionless defeat in St. Louis
, they recovered impressively in Pittsburgh
. Montreal's lost two of its best defenceman and now a desperately needed physical scorer. That team's got a lot of mental toughness.10.
Did not get a chance to see Boston/Islanders on Friday night, but Chara was handed an awful boarding penalty Thursday against Buffalo. Hope that's a one-night fluke and not the start of a trend. Making him a magnet for weak calls is the wrong way to go.11.
An Eastern player said we wouldn't see a lot of harsh criticism of Chara from that conference because teams have to deal with him and the Bruins. There was some mild stuff (Steve Montador, Brooks Laich), but the harder quotes came from the West
(Henrik Sedin, Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe). Either the player is pretty insightful, or there's an honesty potion in the Pacific Ocean. 12.
On the penalty kill, the Sabres weren't even in the 617 area code on Tomas Kaberle. Different uniform, same guy. Shoot the puck, Tomas. 13. Scott Oake's interesting report on Winnipeg
indicated the team could make revenues of $102 million per year. That's $30 million more than some of the NHL's own estimates, a pretty significant gap. Chances are we're going to see who is right. I'll bet the league hopes Scott is. 14.
Kyle Wellwood didn't make any new fans in Vancouver when he said the Canucks "have more lessons to learn." Funny thing is he's not the only player who feels that way. One Blackhawk said he'd "like to see what happens if they fall behind in a playoff series." To me, this looks like a very different group, especially under Henrik Sedin's leadership, but opponents clearly need to be convinced. 15.
The "Kesler-bombing" during interviews with other Canucks is terrific. Back when Michael Peca was captaining the Sabres, I was interviewing Jason Dawe in the room. Peca started imitating all of the answers, and Dawe became hopelessly annoyed and confused. I mercifully ended the interview, and Dawe started yelling at Peca. That was the funniest such thing I'd seen until Kesler behind Cory Schneider in the goalie mask. 16.
How popular is Terry Pegula in Buffalo? He was out for dinner recently and daughter Jessie tweeted a photo of the steak he ordered. One TV station figured out which restaurant it was and showed up for an interview. (With Pegula, not the steak.) 17.
Best compliment I've heard about him: "You'd never know he was wealthy. Just a normal guy." Also is described as wanting to create a situation where players who have no-trades will want to waive them for Buffalo. He's off to a great start. It's not a coincidence that the Sabres are 7-2-2 since he arrived. 18.
Final bit about Pegula: He says he won't talk contract with Lindy Ruff until after the season. I did ask Ruff about his future before Saturday's game in Toronto. He said, "I'm going to borrow [Pegula's] quote from the press conference. I ain't going nowhere." That's great news for the Sabres. 19.
How serious a Rookie-of-the-year candidate will Tyler Ennis be? He's really coming on now that he's getting the Kovalev out of him, learning that he doesn't have to beat every defender three times.
Tyler Myers on why he's playing better: "I'm trying to do half as much instead of twice as much." 21.
The writers vote for the Hart and GMs for the Vezina. Wondering if we'll see a goalie nominated for the Hart who doesn't win the Vezina. Wouldn't have any problem with Tim Thomas winning the goalie award over Carey Price or Pekka Rinne, but when it comes to the MVP -- the latter two are very legitimate candidates. 22.
Do think that several players will be eliminated from award contention if their teams miss the playoffs. Rinne would be one. Rick Nash - as I mentioned last week - is probably gone from the Hart race for that reason. Same for Todd Richards and the Jack Adams. This is a big week for the Wild. 23.
Most doctors now will give a high estimate for recovery time from injury. That way, players have a better chance of avoiding disappointment due to a return being longer than expected. If you're the Flyers, you've got to hope doctors are trying a similar tactic with Chris Pronger
. Three-four weeks for his hand takes us right to the playoffs. 24.
Pronger's verbal undressing of Claude Giroux got a lot of attention, but when Pronger is like that - crabby and grouchy - he's at his best. He needs it to be great. When he's passive and content, he's simply not as good.
Would the Edmonton Oilers be interested in bringing back Denis Grebeshkov? They traded him because his arbitration number was going to be too high, but with some extra cap room and a need for defencemen, it might not be a bad idea. Of course, it will all come down to money, and St. Petersburg pays very well.
Do think it's very possible one relative thought Sidney Crosby should retire. Don't think Crosby ever considered it very seriously. 27.
It's gone under the radar, but while the Predators made the paper move of sending Wade Belak to the minors, he's staying in the city and being paid his full salary. Belak's said several times he wants to make Tennessee his home and is a great ambassador for the franchise. Players notice when organizations treat popular guys that well. 28.
Do not underestimate the possibility of Telus being a bidder for the Maple Leafs
, although it's possible the company's intentions are already known. What a splash that would be in a part of the country that's more Rogers/Bell territory. 29.
Last Sunday's AHL on CBC broadcast between Hamilton and Toronto was delayed 10 minutes by a fire alarm. Confirm or Deny: Was it caused by burnt popcorn?
The Sabres will hold a public memorial for Richard Martin
, on March 24 at HSBC Arena. Loved Mike Robitaille's comments to The Buffalo News: "We should have the biggest party in the world for Richard. If he was in this situation, he'd have it for himself." What a great way to be remembered.
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