Welcome to Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week, the Insiders answered several questions including why the NHL targets head shots but allows punches to the head; what to make of the emergence of Nazem Kadri and how careful the Penguins will be in monitoring Evgeni Malkin’s recovery from a concussion.
James Hunt asks: How can the NHL be taken seriously re: “head shots” when they continue to allow players to
pummel each other in the head during fights?
Scott Morrison: Good question, there is an element of hypocrisy. But there is not an appetite to remove fighting from the game. Many still view it as a strategy, a momentum changer, a release valve and that it generally involves two players prepared for the blows. I get it, though, it is still a head shot but that is the rationale. For now it’s blindside hits targeting the head, or any hits targeting the head that are viewed differently and they need to be eliminated or at least further reduced.
John Shannon: James, while I’m not the biggest promoter of fighting in the game, I do believe there is a real difference between the “head shots” that the NHL is trying to eliminate and fighting. The hits to the head that involve a predator and a victim have to be removed. As the speed of the game increases and the size of the players does as well, there has to be a way to teach the players and protect the players. And while fighting is responsible for 25 percent of concussions, as distasteful as it may be to some, involves two willing combatants.
Jeff Marek: First of all, contrary to popular belief contact to the head (albeit incidental) is still allowed in the NHL. Deliberately targeting the head and launching one’s self towards the unsuspecting melon is another kettle of fish altogether. And further to that, the discrepancy I’d make between contact to the head with a check versus a fight is an acceptance and/or understanding by both players that engaging in a fight will lead to your head being hit by a fist. That is an agreement each fighter has with one another – I’ll allow you to punch me in the head if you can in order that I am offered the same luxury (as if getting popped in the bean is in any way luxurious).
Neil Smith: Dear James, concussions rarely are inflicted from fisticuffs in hockey. The jarring effect due to the skating speed is what leads to most concussions.
Alex Fletcher asks: How are the Ottawa Senators still grasping to a playoff spot despite this myriad of injuries?
John Shannon: Alex, there is one simple reason why the Senators are still around, depth. Losing the team’s best centre, defenceman and goaltender has not had the effect many thought it would. One cannot discount the job that Bryan and Tim Murray have done to build the organization’s strength at almost every position. Add the coaching of Paul MacLean, and the recipe for success for the Sens Playoff Formula might, just might, be written.
Neil Smith: Dear Alex, the Senators are getting great goaltending, scoring by committee and excellent systematic coaching.
Nick Kypreos: You can’t fluke talent. Kadri is a highly skilled player. Simply put, the difference between Kadri now and a year or two ago is a coach who believes in him. Ron Wilson saw Kadri’s glass half empty while Randy Carlyle looks at it as half full. This is not to take all the onus off Kadri’s shoulders either. His game is now more NHL ready for Carlyle and Dave Nonis than it was for Wilson and Brian Burke. Kadri early in his pro career didn’t help himself either with the lack of a team concept on and off the ice. Chalk this one up to Kadri needing time to mature.
Brad May: Nazem Kadri is a much more mature player today because of the time Toronto invested in him with the Toronto Marlies. Like a lot of players, it takes time to hone your skills and your professional habits. I like Nazem Kadri’s game and I like the player he’s turning into. Having a coach who believes in you is probably the single greatest factor in Nazem Kadri’s emergence.
Neil Smith: Dear Paul, Kadri has matured and has paid his dues in the AHL. He has changed and improved his game to adapt to the NHL.
Jeremy Blakely asks: At what point do the Flames have to decide this season if they are going for the playoffs or starting a true rebuild? Is GM Jay Feaster’s job safe?
Nick Kypreos: At what point Jeremy? Try a year and half ago. This is one of the older teams in the league and they missed the playoffs last season. Think Jarome Iginla’s getting any faster as the clock keeps ticking? This team needs to look towards life after Jarome and Miikka Kiprusoff and why they haven’t done that yet I have no idea. Rebuild isn’t that dirty of a word in pro sports despite what Calgary’s ownership group thinks today. Jarome has been great over the years but it’s time to identify a new nucleus and that can’t happen until No. 12 and even No. 34 to a lesser extent have moved on. If I were a betting man, right now I’d give Jay Feaster a 50/50 chance of being the guy to rebuild whenever the owners scream “Uncle”.
Brad May: The answer is the trading deadline. The question that has to be asked in Calgary is what value their veteran players have on the open market and what belief do you have in your young players in the system. The exercise of competing every day and trying to win is part of Calgary’s development process. You don’t tank a season and reap rewards so quickly. Jay Feaster has to forecast the performances of his current roster over the next few years to understand the holes or the voids that may exist going forward. And those are the positions that he has to address. The most pressing issue for the Calgary Flames is either trading Jarome Iginla and getting assets in return or ensuring that they’ve signed their captain to an extension before April 3. They cannot risk losing Iginla on the free agent market for nothing and expect to be competitive.
Chris Johnston: There isn’t really any compelling reason to make that assessment until just before the April 3 trade deadline — assuming, of course, they don’t completely go in the tank in the immediate future. At this point, Calgary can be considered among the group of teams with a shot of grabbing one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, which will likely prompt Feaster to wait as late as possible before assessing what he has here. I think any speculation about his job is premature even if the Flames miss out on the postseason again. I would expect him to get next year as well.
Mike Keenan: The Flames are too close to a playoff berth to dismantle the team. With the shortened season and with a .500 record they can stay in the playoff hunt until the end of the season. Only Mr. Edwards knows if Jay Feaster’s job is safe.
Ken12 asks: Given their experience with Sidney Crosby’s concussions, how careful do you see the Penguins being with Evgeni Malkin?
Daren Millard: Please allow me to ask you a question first. What were your parents thinking naming you Ken12? There isn’t a team in the NHL that has experienced a more high profile concussion. The Penguins know every doctor, every course of treatment and most importantly all the symptoms in the course of a recovery. The team proved during various stages with Sidney Crosby that they would not take short-cuts so don’t expect Malkin to be pushed back in just because it’s a short season. This team is good enough to survive without Malkin which buys him all the time he requires.
Doug MacLean: The Penguins will be similar to every team in the league and follow the league protocol. Sure, due to the fact that Sidney was such a major issue and the medical staff was replaced I’m sure extra care and discussion will be held.
Chris Johnston: There is no denying the impact Crosby’s past struggles will have on how Pittsburgh deals with Malkin’s injury. Everyone from the training staff to coaches and management should be well-versed in what to expect during his recovery and there’s no doubt he’ll be given as much time as he needs on the sidelines. Another thing the Penguins will likely be open to is alternative treatment methods — Crosby received treatment from Atlanta-based chiropractor Ted Carrick — should Malkin decide he wants to explore those options.
Mike Keenan: The Crosby standard has been set in Pittsburgh as far as evaluating concussions. The Penguins will be very cautious with Malkin.
Carter asks: Now that Brian Burke has moved on from the Maple Leafs to join the Ducks as a scout, which teams can you picture being a potential landing spot in the future for him as a GM?
Scott Morrison: Hard to predict where there will be vacancies at the moment, but he could be a good fit in a number of places. He has a history with ownership in Dallas, for instance. Beyond his hockey knowledge, given his profile and personality, he would be excellent in an American market needing to sell tickets and attract attention.
Daren Millard: I fully believe Brian Burke will serve as a general manager in the National Hockey League again. Where? Not Hartford, Cleveland, Kansas City or Phoenix. Wait, he may end up in Phoenix.
Doug MacLean: Carter, Brian has now held four general manager jobs. If openings occur, and there are usually one or two a year, a lot of organizations have people in house that they consider or teams will look at Brian’s body of work. The Toronto situation will not help him. Hard to say which teams will want to replace their GM. Usually playoff success or failure at the end of season is when owners make those decisions.
Mike Keenan: Brian Burke took a job with Anaheim to stay connected to the game. He will be amongst a number of good candidates vying for the next GM position.