Monday, March 14, 2011

NHL's New Concussion Rules Reactionary And About Image Not Safety

In Florida this week the NHL General Managers are having their meetings to discuss the state of the game.  There was little doubt that concussions and player safety were going to be at the forefront of the discussions and so NHL Commissioner attempted to get out in front of that with his new five point plan to attempt to reduce concussions in the league.  The full plan can be found at
The bullet point version of the plan is:  Shanahan is in charge of equipment; players with any concussion symptoms are benched ad must see doctor who will administer testing; teams and their coaches can be held accountable for repeat offenders; evaluation of each arena to see how to improve safety conditions; finally a blue ribbon panel comprised of ex-players with Shanahan, Rob Blake, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk named.
The entire plan seems to be more of damage control than real reform other than the second point which I want to discuss in more detail.
The NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management has been revised in three areas: 1) Mandatory removal from play if a player reports any listed symptoms or shows any listed signs (loss of consciousness ... Motor incoordination/balance problems ... Slow to get up following a hit to the head ... blank or vacant look ... Disorientation (unsure where he is) ... Clutching the head after a hit ... Visible facial injury in coombination with any of the above). 2) Examination by the team physician (as opposed to the athletic trainer) in a quiet place free from distraction. 3) Team physician is to use 'an acute evaluation tool' such as the NHL SCAT 2 [SCAT stands for Sports Concussion Assessment Tool] as opposed to a quick rinkside assessment.
This is the best step the plan takes, but still had the feel of a reactive measure that brings the NHL closer to where the NFL is on concussions.  There is no reason that a doctor should not be the one conducting these types of evaluations already and that no neurological testing is required for a player to return to action is asking for players to say they are fine and attempt to play through it. 
Obviously changes have to be made to help eliminate concussions, but the idea that this is a magnanimous gesture or proactive on the part of the NHL is a farce.  The NHL is doing this because it’s best and most promoted player Sidney Crosby missed months of action along with the fallout from the Max PAcioretty injury in which Canadian sponsors hypocritically threatened to end their relationships with the NHL if more was not done.  This might be a step in the right direction, but the reasons behind it are as much financial as for player health.

Prust Sits Out Practice, Could Miss Tomorrow

Per Jesse Spector Brandon sat out of today’s practice on another one of those maintenance days that he has so desperately needed with all his bumps and bruises.  This has happened before and each time he has played, even in games where he likely should have gone, which makes coach John Tortorella saying after practice that he was not sure if Prust would go somewhat surprising.  It might be in the best interest of all involved to have Prust sit a game, but I would not count on that happening as the warrior mentality he has will not allow it.  Tomorrow would be an interesting game for him not to play as well with as dirty as the Islanders can be of late.  The possibility does exist, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

Today’s lines:
Interesting to see Wolski in Prust’s spot instead of Avery, but it would fit to some extent with the limited time Zuccarello got in the third period against San Jose that they are the fourth line at the moment.
I am also expecting Eminger back in the lineup tomorrow for Gilroy, but who knows if that one will happen.

Which New York Ranger Should Win 2010-11 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award?

Callahan winning 2008-09 Award
The movement towards the end of the NHL regular season leads to talk of awards and while there are still 12 games to go and a lot left on the line after talking about Rangers rookie of the year yesterday I want to discuss the annual Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.  I suspect that this award has as much meaning for the Ranger player who wins it as any they could receive because of the meaning behind it. 
The award was first established during the 1987-88 season following detective McDonald’s shooting on July 12, 1986.  The award in his honor is given out to reward the player that most goes above and beyond the call of duty to aid the team.  For the past two seasons the winner of the award has been Rangers assistant captain Ryan Callahan.  Callahan will certainly be a candidate for a third consecutive award, but this year the competition will be tough based on the sheer number of guys who have given so much for the team this season.
Given the way the team has played both in style and character narrowing the list down was difficult, but the five guys I would take as the best candidates are: Dan Girardi, Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Prust.  You could certainly made a case for some others to be involved in the discussion and that is a testament to the team and the way they have fought all season long.
Dan Girardi
Tough to question the candidacy of the guy who leads the league in blocked shots (206) and is third on the team in hits (162).  Girardi has shown absolutely no hesitation in getting in front on any opponent’s shot, to the point where it has hurt him at time with deflected goals, but there is no questioning his effort.  Girardi has also been a quiet leader among the Rangers young defense core and taken on the added responsibility of playing three more minutes a game than ever before.
Ruslan Fedotenko
If you want to gauge the true value of Ruslan Fedotenko and his effort/worth to this team think about how differently they played when he was out with his shoulder injury.  The team lost a piece of their identity without arguably their best forechecker in the lineup and what he did against Florida earlier this year typifies what this team is about.  Not only did he throw himself in front of the Bryan McCabe blast from the point and take it off the hand, but afterwards while in serious pain he got right back up and attempt to block more shots before heading to the bench was what extra effort and commitment to the team are all about.
Brian Boyle
Part of the Steven McDonald award for me is not just the effort on the ice, but the commitment to improvement off of it and Brian Boyle displayed that willingness to do whatever it takes to be better for his team with his work last summer on his skating.  Based on that work last summer he has come back a new player who is more capable not just offensively, but in his ability to effectively use his physical size on opponents.  He has translated that into a team leading 203 hits on the season which also ranks him 10th in the NHL.  Beyond just the numbers with Boyle is the trust the team has in him to play in any situation against any opponent and his work killing penalties with his partner in crime, Brandon Prust, has been huge for the Rangers not just in keeping pucks out of their net, but sticking them into the opposition’s.  Along with that Boyle has become one of the team’s key faceoff takers, is always willing to block a shot and play through the pain while also defending teammates.
Ryan Callahan
Ryan Callahan is the yearly odd-on favorite to win the award and giving it to him this year would upset no one as once again he has put in a campaign that does great honor to the award.  Callahan plays without regard for his own personal health on every shift whether it be blocking shots, killing penalties, hitting anything that moves, and always willing for the scrum after the whistle.  Callahan missed 19 games this year, which somewhat hurts his candidacy, but then you have to realize he missed those game breaking his hand diving in the way of a shot against the Penguins, so tough to fault him for that.  Despite the missed time Callahan is still third on the team with 189 hits, and his leadership has certainly helped a young team find its way this season. 
Brandon Prust
As deserving as Callahan and all the others might be this year, for me, Brandon Prust is the clear cut winner of the Steven McDonald award for 2010-11.  You watch this team and the fighting spirit, that warrior mentality is epitomized by Brandon Prust.  Whether it be at even strength or on the penalty kill you know that every shift out there Prust is going to give you maximum effort and then some.  Throw away the stats and just watch Prust play night after night with countless injuries and never complain, never take a shift off and you cannot help but respect him.  Prust will not, even to his own detriment, turn down a fight against anyone and as much as it may infuriate me as it happens because of his injuries and situations you love the heart. Prust is not this team’s best player, but he is leads in the sense that creates an environment of no excuses around the team.  When you watch a guy play multiple games with a charley horse that is bad enough that when the game ends he cannot straighten his leg, everyone in that room notices and refuses to talk injury.  After all, to Prust “It’s just pain,” and for that he should win the 2010-11 Steve McDonald extra effort award.
Let me know what you think.