June 07, 2011

Making the NHL\'s concussion problem smaller by subtraction: How could the NHL make players think twice about headshots? Easy -- suspend more than just the culprit.

There's been quite a bit of backslapping going on over the NHL's (and temp discipline honcho Mike Murphy's) four-game suspension of Vancouver's Aaron Rome after he concussed Boston's Nathan Horton in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals.

It's been pointed out only three players have ever been suspended during the Finals, and each of them received a single game. Of course, I haven't taken the time to see if any of those players intentionally attempted (and succeeded) in removing one of their opponents' most valuable pieces for the remainder of the postseason, and in any case, I don\'t think using the NHL's terrible history of disciplining its players in the measuring stick to use.

So forgive me if I don't think the Canucks losing some schlub that doesn't even appear on the depth chart matches up properly with the Bruins losing Horton. In fact, I bet there are some Vancouver fans out there who think this is a pretty good trade -- we lose Rome, they lose a player with 17 points in the postseason.

How to square things?

Pretty simple. Let's go back to the depth charts.

According to the Boston chart, Horton is the top-line right winger. For Vancouver, that's Jannik Hansen. So in addition to Rome, the NHL should remove Hansen for the remainder of the Finals.

That's not really even enough -- as Hansen has had nowhere near the impact Horton has -- but it's a start. It sends the message that taking a shot at an opponent's head doesn't just mean one of your idiots sits. It means you lose a piece arguably as valuable as the one you took out.

As another example, you can decide whether Washington's David Steckel or Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman gave Sidney Crosby the concussion that sidelined him for most of this season. But do you think either of those players would have done what they did knowing Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos would sit as long as Crosby?

Would it be fair to either Ovy or Stamkos to have to sit? Of course not. But is it fair to any player to have their health and livelihood threatened by some moron who doesn't care about his fellow player's well-being?

Under my system, I'm betting coaches might be a bit more interested in making sure their players aren't out headhunting. They might not even put those meatheads on the ice in the first place.

And that would definitely be worthy of a little backslapping all around.

posted by wfrazerjr to at 10:23 PM - 2 comments

It's only daydreaming to think that the NHLPA would allow random players to be suspended from play.

The only extra discipline that I think would punish the teams for playing headhunters would be to say that if a player is suspended for X games, then his team must ice a lineup that is short one player for X games.

So not only is that player missing time, but the team plays with a smaller bench for a game or two (or ten).

Then imagine what happens if a team loses TWO players to suspension...

posted by grum@work at 12:11 AM on June 08, 2011

Doubt a position-for-position suspension will ever happen. Do agree that the roster slot should remain empty for a suspended player. That's the only way to get the teams to do something about it (i.e. not keeping a dirty player on the roster).

The problem I see is that the NHL is likely to be just as arbitrary in that regard. Dirty hit from a player on a team out of contention in March? Suspension. Dirty hit from a Penguins player when they're fighting for playoff position. No suspension.

(I only use the Penguins here because I'm a B's fan and they seem to be good at injuring Bruins.)

So, they're going to have to get a lot more consistent and stop basing it on who does the hitting and what the result of the hit is. Think Rome would've been suspended if he were a 1-2 defenseman instead of a bench guy? Or if Horton didn't come out of it with a concussion? Neither point takes away from the fact that it was the kind of hit the NHL needs to get rid of and still worthy of a suspension.

posted by kokaku at 07:20 AM on June 08, 2011

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