TAMPA - Maybe it’s time for the hockey world to collectively ask Santa Claus for a much-needed present: No more concussion problems.
We’re more than a week away from St. Nick’s visit and the league could already put together a heck of a team after choosing from the more than 30 players who have missed time this season. And it seems most are missing time right now.
Just think of the crew you could build from the NHL’s concussion crew this season.
Sidney Crosby, Milan Michalek and Claude Giroux would make a mighty fine first line.
Daniel Alfredsson, Jeff Skinner, Mike Richards, Mike Fisher, David Perron and Andy McDonald could form your second and third units.
As for the fourth line, you could go with a blend of youth and toughness with players such as Brayden Schenn, Nino Niederreiter, Nathan Gerbe, Ben Eager, Raitis Ivanans and Cody McCormick to choose from. Or maybe Tyler Kennedy, Peter Mueller or Guillaume Latendresse are more to your liking.
And don’t forget Marc Savard, whose long-term problems have sadly made him almost a ghost in concussion conversation.
On defence, feel free to pick a top six from Chris Pronger, Kris Letang, Joni Pitkanen, Zbynek Michalek, Michael Sauer, Marc Staal and Marek Zidlicky.
The bounty includes a goalie crew of Ryan Miller, James Reimer, Rick DiPietro and Steve Mason.
Unfortunately, that’s not everyone, and the truly scary part is we may be hitting the point when concussions are becoming part of the game, just like separated shoulders and groin injuries.
“It’s a physical sport and you kind of expect those things to happen when you step on the ice,” admitted Tampa Bay Lightning rising star Steve Stamkos.
“But I think the advances in the medical field and how people can diagnose concussions now (is a factor). Maybe five or 10 years ago, when it wasn’t that big of an issue, guys were probably playing through a lot more things because we didn’t know as much about concussions as we do now.”
To their credit, the league is trying to cut down on head injuries, but think about how many of those are a result of collisions with teammates or other such fluky plays.
The good news is, at least the league is taking the issue more seriously.
“You look at Sidney Crosby and how long he was out for — teams and doctors want to protect your players now,” Stamkos said.
As the GM of the Flames, Darryl Sutter made some darn good acquisitions, which is where you’d include the trades which brought in Rene Bourque, Chris Simon and Marcus Nilson, and some which were absolutely brilliant, such as acquiring Miikka Kiprusoff from San Jose and Daymond Langkow from Phoenix and developing defenceman Mark Giordano. Sutter also deserves praise for the winning culture the team had for those few years after the lockout. On the other hand, some of his other deals are crippling the club right now, mainly the Dion Phaneuf trade, and others such as re-acquiring Jordan Leopold for Ryan Wilson and a second-round draft choice. As a coach, though, Sutter was always excellent at his job in Calgary, pulling the most from a team and using his sense of what move was needed next. For that, he would be a great fit in Los Angeles for a floundering Kings team. By the way, all those who have made cutting comments about how Sutter would want to undermine Kings GM Dean Lombardi, guess again. He and Lombardi have a friendship that dates back beyond their time together in San Jose ... Flames prospects Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland were longshots to be on Canada’s world junior team. It’s too bad they didn’t make it, but it’s not out of line to believe they’ll both be playing games for the Flames over the next couple of seasons.
Only complaint about the first episode of HBO’s 24/7 series with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers leading up to the Winter Classic: Did we really need a Sean Avery fashion shoot? Otherwise, the whole thing provides great insight to the players ... A downside to the expected realignment will be having the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks in different conferences. That may be the nastiest rivalry in the league right now, and David Bolland’s quips about the Sedins added more fuel to the fire. One question for Bolland: Why wouldn’t you want the Sedins on your team? ... Seven of the New Jersey Devils’ victories this season have come via shootout, therefore they’re in a playoff spot.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I played my 1st NHL game 1 wk after getting cut for World Juniors in 1995-96. Keep your heads up, good things will happen.”
— New York Rangers goalie Marty Biron via Twitter.