The GMs met this year to discuss head hits and replays. The irony, of course, is that they're discussing the players' safety while they get to sit around in sunny Florida. I guess it just supports the percentage of grey hair floating around Florida. Anyways, there were some interesting goings on.
I find it hard to quantize the amount of head hits that DIDN'T happen this season, only the amount that did. I mean to say, is it really the rule that's reducing the amount of head hits? Or, would there really have been more if the rule weren't in place? I'm not sure, and that's really a question for philosophy. The simple answer is: the rule is in place and it's doing its job. Even Brian Burke agrees: "The head shot rule is working." Well thanks for the news break BB. What's more interesting is his opinion of the outline of the GM meetings this year. He says, "Look to making the game safer without changing the fabric of the game." So, we know they want to make a change! And it seems like they want to make a minor change. Pierre Gauthier, GM of the Habs, said, "The discussions have been to lower the threshold between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. We have the ability to do that. Those are adjustments." What he's talking about is boarding and charging calls. Terry Gregson, a retired NHl ref, said some things on the topic, "Could we tweak the boarding rules to curtail some of the collisions down low?" "Did the player go in there with any regard to the puck?" "Was he trying to separate the player from the puck?" "Or, was he just trying to punish." "If any of those flags come up, you're probably looking at a major, or game misconduct." While tweaking boarding and charging would make the game safer, reducing the violence of boarding and charging probably wouldn't do anything to protect players from where the majority of concussions are coming from.
Concussion study year long breakdown
legal hits - 44%
accidental hits - 31%
illegal hits - 17% down from 41% of man games lost
fighting - 8%
14 suspensions for hits to the head this year
Gary Bettman released that data in an interview with Craig Button (who has a giant nose, sorry Mr button). The largest percentage of concussions are coming from legal hits. So what's the solution to that? Rob Blake had some interesting points. Regarding these legal checks, he seems to think that both players, the hitter and hittee have a responsibility to protect the one getting hit. "There is onus on the player, but also the player that's doing the hit." "Both players have to be aware of where they are on the ice." "When you see a player in an unsuspecting position on the boards, you gotta pull up." "You can tell when a player is a vulnerable position. As a player you should be able to tell that line and not cross it." Personally, I think this is what makes Chara's hit on Pacioretty reckless. It was a legal hit (disregarding the interference call, of course), but Chara has to know where he is. He's a veteran, one of the best D-men in the league, and an incredibly smart/respectable skater. There's no doubt in my mind that Chara didn't intend to hurt Pacioretty, but there was a major lack of concentration there. Perhaps in future seasons a hit like that will garner a suspension. Blake went on to talk about the importance of teaching responsibility and how to protect yourself at a youth hockey level. "You want to teach them (in youth hockey) to keep themselves out of vulnerable positions." "It seems once they put on the helmets, the pads, and all the equipment, all they want to do is run in to eachother." A little levity, of course, from the incredible-stay-at-home-D-man-emeritus.
Gary Bettman also provided a 5 point plan to improve the safety of players:
1-NHL VP Brendan Shanahan to work with NHLPA on equipment safety. Shanahan wants to implement cut-resistant socks. I'll bet Alex Stalock would like a pair of those.
2-Mandatory removal from play if player shows any signs of listlessness after hit. He has to be taken off the ice, to a quiet place, and evaluated by an NHL staff physician.
3-On repeat offenders for illegal hits, penalties for club and/or coach. This one would probably cause some problems for Ray Shero and Garth Snow. Matt Cooke/Trevor Gillies anyone?
4- Engineering form to be hired to evaluate rink "environment" safety. That's simple enough, make the rink the Habs play in safer for everyone to play in.
5-Blue ribbon committee to evaluate all related topics
Yzerman, Nieuwendyk, Blake, Shanahan
What an all-star roster that is!
And finally, this happened: 2-16-11 "New Concussion protocol: Starting tonight, players suspected of having a concussion will be removed from the game and sent to a quiet place free from distraction so they can be examined by the on-site team physician. The physician will use the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test to evaluate the player. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, motor incoordination or balance problems, a blank or vacant look, slow to get up after a hit to the head, disorientation, clutching of the head after a hit or visible facial injury in combination with another symptom."
The GMs also met to discuss replays and the spin-o-rama. I didn't see this one coming. The sentiment seems to be that video review should be increased. Colin Campbell discussed it, ""If the puck comes to a dead stop, and the interpretation is if the puck stops dead, it's no goal, dead play, blah blah blah." "The hard part is interpreting the puck stopping, and it will be interpreted by a video review." And then there's Ray Shero, "I'm actually not a fan of the spin-o-rama in the shootout." I like the spin-o-rama. It's exciting and that's the whole point of the thing anyways. Draw more viewership to the game. Until they get rid of the thing (which I'm not totally against) they might as well let the players wear stunner shades and wicker hats. See Alex Ovechkin's all-star shootout performance.
The tweaks seem appropriate. Increase the stringency of boarding calls and charging calls, be more strict by handing out more suspensions, make the players wear more armor. What I find most appealing is that I'm not sure that the speed of the game is going to decrease. Not until they implement no-touch icing.