Shannon on NHL: All things related

So the Montreal Canadiens have joined the list of teams that have grown impatient with coaching. It really shouldn’t be any surprise, after all the rumours have been out there since the weekend before Paul Maurice and Bruce Boudreau were removed.

And while Ken Hitchcock’s appointment in St. Louis has been a tremendous success, the other moves (even though it appears the Capitals are improving) have not jump-started the teams to play better.

There is always the hope that a new coach will change the on-ice momentum for at least 10 games. That’s because teams can ill afford long winless streaks in the three-point NHL. Hence the change in Montreal.

But make no mistake about what happened to Jacques Martin. Ownership, management and the fans demand that this team must make the playoffs. What baffles me is that Pierre Gauthier appears to be above the controversy. Yet to many, Pierre Gauthier appears to be the biggest issue. Re-signing an injured Andre Markov, signing Erik Cole for four years and $18 million, taking on $9 million in salary for Tomas Kaberle (its early folks, just wait!) are amongst the issues for this GM.

Compounding the player issues with losing both Kirk Muller and Guy Boucher from the organization in the past three years, and ridding the team of both Perry Pearn and now Martin in this season, Gauthier must take more responsibility in the mess that is the Montreal Canadiens.

Something smells in Montreal, and to me it’s leadership from management. Perhaps they miss the vision and analytical mind of Pierre Boivin as team president.

Speaking of fired coaches, with Terry Murray now gone, there are two more coaches that started their seasons in Europe down for the count. In fact, since the Premiere Games started in earnest in 2008, 18 NHL teams have visited Europe. Of those teams, 10 coaches were fired within 18 months of starting overseas.

So for you coaches or those aspiring to coach in the NHL, if you’re asked if you want to start on the other side of the Atlantic, vote NO! Or at least get a long-term contract extension before you do.

Hey, the concussion discussions have heated up in the past few days. There is no doubt that every constituent should be concerned. However, the league, the teams and the players should actually all receive some credit for trying to improve awareness and treatment of head injuries over the past few years. And while the league reports concussions might be down slightly, it is still distressing that big names aren’t playing. In my mind, the key word in all of this is awareness. In looking at what the NHL has done the past few years, there appears to be an aggressive approach to the problem:

January 2010
NHL becomes the first pro sports League to adopt a Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol, a comprehensive document governing all phases of concussion evaluation and management.

March 2010
A rule prohibiting “lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact” was implemented, allowing NHL Hockey Operations the ability to review for the purpose of supplementary discipline.

The League also announced that, effective in 2010-11, there would be a prohibition of the use of shoulder pads that do not have one-half inch of padding on all areas that could make contact with an opponent. Such a requirement for elbow pads had been in effect since 2003.

June 2010
Effective the start of the 2010-11 season, Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head – was implemented, allowing a major penalty and a game misconduct for a “lateral or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact.”

March 2011
The Blue-Ribbon Committee comprised of NHL executives Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman and Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk was asked by the Commissioner and the GMs to study all the possible ways of creating a safer environment for the players.

June 2011
The NHL became the first professional league to create a Player Safety Department. The department is focused on rules that can better protect players, safety issues related to equipment and the playing environment, in addition to the administering of supplemental discipline.

August 2011
NHL becomes the first professional sports League to develop mandatory rules calling for removal of a player from a game for medical evaluation. Pursuant to the League-wide concussion protocol, any player who displays one or more of the determined signs of concussion, or who exhibits or reports one or more of the determined concussion symptoms (either on-ice or at any subsequent time), shall be removed as soon as possible from the playing environment by Club medical personnel.

The player shall then be evaluated by the team physician and/or athletic trainer or therapist in a distraction-free environment using a comprehensive standardized acute concussion assessment tool to determine whether the player is diagnosed as having concussion.

The team physician shall make the determination whether the player is diagnosed with a concussion. If, after the evaluation noted above the team physician determines that the player is not diagnosed with a concussion, the player may return to play.

2011-12 Season
All remaining seamless tempered glass systems in arenas have been replaced with a safer plexiglass system, which allows for more “give” on contact. Also, a curved-glass system has replaced the padded “turnbuckles” that were set on the stanchions at the end of each player bench. And of course, Rule 48 was broadened to prohibit any contact with an opponent where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact.

The deadline the NHL has given the Players Association concerning feedback on realignment shouldn’t be viewed as early indication of hostilities between the two sides for the coming CBA negotiations. While the league has said they want a decision from the union by early January, representations from both sides do agree that this is just the process based on the current agreement.

According to a league source, approval is not needed from the PA but , “CBA requires that we discuss with the PA and that they not act unreasonably. We assume they won’t.”

On the other side, a PA source told me, “John, Just an FYI that we have indeed had lengthy discussions with the league on realignment and they are committed to providing us with the data and information that helped them decide on their proposal (which indeed requires PA sign-off). It just cannot be unreasonably held.”

Disagreement or semantics? You decide.