Don't turn back on NHL hitters

Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck lays an open-ice hit on Jarkko Ruutu at the Honda Center in Anaheim,...

Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck lays an open-ice hit on Jarkko Ruutu at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Feb. 25, 2011. (JEFF GROSS/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:09 PM ET

Where is the discipline bar set by new NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan "Sheriff" Shanahan?

Too high?

There's been talk some general managers have complained about the length of some of Shanahan's suspensions so far, that the bans have been too long. But the hockey people interviewed Tuesday by QMI Agency didn't agree.

They all agreed the crackdown on headshots is good and didn't even want to dwell too long on the job Shanahan has done so far.

Nope, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray, Senators winger Chris Neil and Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, unbidden, all steered the conversation to what they see as the hotter issue right now -- hitting and where the game is going with player safety.

They all brought up players who are putting themselves in dangerous positions along the boards as the issue that needs to be addressed because they see it happening with more frequency.

Murray, who's always been an advocate of tough, physical hockey, even mused that it might be time to consider giving a penalty to a player who intentionally turns his back to an oncoming hit.

"I think there is a time in our game where the guy getting hit should be penalized," Murray said. "The person that turns his back at the last second to draw a penalty, there should be something that tells him that what you did is wrong in the game and I'm not going to allow you to do that again without penalizing you."

There's nobody who knows more about hitting in the NHL -- at least based on frequency -- than Clutterbuck. He has led the NHL in hits for each of the three seasons he's been in the league, including a record 356 in 2008-09.

Clutterbuck admits to having passed up some hits this season in light of the new boarding rule and backed off on others. He's had to change his game, adapt.

But he can't stand players who take advantage of the situation by turning their back to a hit and thinks it's an issue.

"Yeah, definitely. There are some guys now who are putting themselves in vulnerable positions on purpose. I think in the last couple of weeks, I've noticed guys putting themselves in positions that normally no hockey player would purposefully put themselves in," said Clutterbuck.

Based on the stats, Clutterbuck is a guy who is going to have to process and react to situations more than anybody.

He admitted the stricter boarding rule is now in the back of his mind.

"I've definitely been thinking about it," he said. "There's always situations that come up. Any good hit usually stems from the guy being hit being surprised or off-balance. When you get situations where in a split second, guys react seeing a hit coming at them and put themselves in a vulnerable position, maybe involuntarily, now you've got to back off and not hit the guy as hard as you normally would.

"I'll get used to it. It might take a little time, but I'll get used to it."

Neil said he sees defenceman turning their backs to ward off hits. He said players should have the attitude of Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"If you're putting yourself in a bad situation, especially a lot of skill guys, they should be aware of who's on the ice and who they're up against. I know our skill guys are. Alfie says if he gets hammered, 'It's my own fault because I put myself in a bad situation.' I look at a guy like (Detroit defenceman) Nik Lidstrom the other night. He's one of the hardest guys to get a hit on because he's such a smart player, he never puts himself in a bad situation."

Shanahan does take into consideration a last-second change of position by the player being hit when considering the legality of a collision. The players just don't like or respect guys using it as a tactic.

"To a certain degree, you have to be responsible for yourself out there" said Clutterbuck. "It's the NHL and you knew what you were getting yourself into when you signed up."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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