It has reached the point where you might as well laugh.
They are saying that, the way things are going, NHL teams are going to have to send their fourth lines to the All-Star Game.
They are saying that, today, you could put together an all-concussion team that would be a lock for the Stanley Cup.
Think about it, the game’s best player, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, on a line with the NHL’s leading point getter, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, and the league’s top goal scorer, Milan Michalek – Michalek’s concussion just confirmed this day before his Ottawa Senators played the Boston Bruins.
On defence, we have Chris Pronger of the Flyers and New York Rangers’ young star Marc Staal. Or Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang if you’re going on the power play.
Add in a dozen or so other names– last year’s rookie of the year Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes and defensive specialist Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings just to mention just two – and you’ve got a team that could strike fear into the defending champion Bruins.
If only they could play.
Michalek, injured the night before when he ran into his own teammate, Erik Karlsson, was missing his first game against a team that has been without Marc Savard, the player who would in all likelihood be its leading scorer but for concussion problems that appear to have ended his career prematurely at age 32. Savard played only a handful of games since he was blindsided by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke in early March, 2010. He stands today as visible proof that recurrences can happen easier but somehow end up worse.
It matters not how concussions are happening – head shots, fights, accidents with sticks and pucks, running into one’s own teammate – they have become an increasingly polarizing issue in today’s hockey. There are as many sick of the issue as there are those wanting the issue addressed – even the media has started sniping among themselves – with the only sure truth being that concussions aren’t going to go away even if they cease to be mentioned. They are, sadly, increasing – or, at the very least, the recording of them has.
“Maybe now it’s everybody is more careful with the head injuries,” suggests Boston captain Zdeno Chara, himself out with a knee injury.
“It’s more serous and nobody wants to risk it, so everybody is taking time to make sure they are good before they play again.”
Such precaution is the story of Crosby, who originally planned to take two games off as a precautionary measure after suffering slight hits a week ago, but whose return is now unknown.
Crosby’s near year-long injury has been the lightning rod for a seemingly endless discussion on what to do. Some say the NHL has not acted strongly enough in either prevention or punishment. Some say the new rules that followed the 2004-05 lockout sped up the game, which fans wanted, but increased the force of collision exponentially. Some say the rink size is too small for today’s much bigger players. Some say the players need to wear softer equipment. Some say they should put the red line back in. ...
The fact is, no one knows what exactly to do and everyone knows that concussions will never be eliminated completely in a game played so fast and furiously on hard surfaces.
All teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators can do at the moment is hope their key players return as soon as they can and remain safe for the future.
The Ottawa Senators, for example, found themselves in desperate need Wednesday of Michalek and his league-leading 19 goals. Despite taking an astonishing 49 shots at Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, they could manage only two goals, by captain Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, against five Boston goals – three on Ottawa defensive gaffes – by Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, Patrice Bergeron and two by Daniel Paille.
Slipping under the playoff radar, the Senators desperately need their star back.
But then, what NHL team doesn’t these days?