Jamie Langenbrunner, Ales Hemsky

Ales Hemsky knocked out of game with concussion, did Oilers staff make a big mistake?

Injuries seem to be piling up everywhere and even lowly Edmonton isn’t immune. After defenseman Ryan Whitney’s season was essentially put to an end thanks to ankle surgery, tonight Ales Hemsky joined him on the list of skating wounded. During tonight’s game with the Wild, Hemsky left the game early with a concussion.

If Hemsky’s injury keeps him out for an extended period of time, he’d likely miss the All-Star Game next week in Raleigh. If you’re looking for potential replacements for him, the list is plentiful. Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere and Minnesota’s Martin Havlat are near the top of the list to get a call from the NHL and get dropped into the selection pool for the game.

While that’s all good and frivolous talk though, we’re discovering that Hemsky’s injury situation is worth taking a very close look at.

As we’ve talked about for the better part of a year now, the science that goes into discovering, diagnosing, and treating concussions is still inexact. The question, as we’ve discovered in how things are going in Sidney Crosby’s dealings with a concussion, is when did things first happen for Hemsky.

As we’re finding out, Hemsky may have originally had the blow that sent him reeling some time ago. Jim Matheson from the Edmonton Journal finds out that Hemsky may have been playing for a while with a concussion.

It doesn’t appear to be any particular hit that KO’d him, more an accumulation of blows over the last half-dozen games.

“He took a puck in the head in Vancouver, an elbow to the head and a stick to the cheek in games on the road trip we just finished and he was a little out of sorts tonight, so we pulled him,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

“He’s had some symptoms before this game and the doctor looked at him and I don’t know what conclusion they’ve drawn.”

As we’ve seen in the discussions about Crosby and his concussion and how much heat the Penguins coaches and training staff have taken over even the possibility they allowed Crosby to play with a concussion against Tampa Bay, it’s baffling to think that the Oilers would seemingly ignore Hemsky’s health in favor of making sure he gets back out on the ice for what’s a bad hockey team.

The Oilers are more than aware of the injury problems Hemsky has faced through his career and the fact that they seemingly looked the other way on what amounts to a brain injury is incredible. After all, coach Renney even says that the doctors looked at him and he has no idea what they thought of Hemsky’s condition. Did he not know or did he just ignore what they said and kept putting him out there anyhow? After all, this is over the course of about six or so games.

It’s unreal to think that the Oilers or any medical staff would play this loose with something like a concussion to a player with a bad injury history, but then again we’re only more privy to these things in the modern age. With modern coverage we’ve seen modern medicine improve a bit, but still the only way to properly treat a concussion as far as we know now is with rest and no physical exertion at all.

Instead, Hemsky has played in at least six games. The fact that tonight was the first night where his body finally had enough and forced him out is remarkable in itself and the Oilers physicians have to be thankful that Hemsky didn’t take a violent hit in the meantime that could’ve turned this into a disaster. The Oilers coaches and medical staff are going to have some explaining to do over this as concussions once again move to the forefront of discussion.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal