New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins

Agent calls for NHL to curb ‘concussion epidemic’


If you polled the hockey world and asked people what they’re most tired of hearing about, it would be some combination of the words “concussion” and “out indefinitely.” The list of names keeps getting larger as Sidney Crosby, Jeff Skinner, Claude Giroux and Milan Michalek are sidelined with troubling head injuries. Michalek’s agent has had enough.

The Canadian Press reveals that Alan Walsh is demanding action from the NHL, which he said is in “the throes of a concussion epidemic.”

“With the economic incentive to make NHL hockey more exciting, the league worked diligently to increase the speed of the game,” Walsh said. “With increased speed necessarily comes increased collision. The results as it relates to player safety are self evident. It’s time for the NHL and teams to treat this issue as the crisis it is.”

Walsh calls for the league to look at the “root causes” of concussions, citing rules that opened up the game, finding safer helmets/mouth guards, head shots and fighting.

I’m with Walsh on improving safety equipment and wouldn’t be surprised to see staged fights gradually decline, but it’s hard to imagine the NHL going back to Dead Puck Era rules. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly more or less confirmed that suspicion by saying “The last thing anybody wants to do is overreact to a very short snapshot in time.” He’s also correct in saying that concussions are likely a fact of life in this sport – to some extent.

That being said, Daly isn’t 100 percent correct in saying that the league has done everything it can. The concussion procedures still have a way to go (“The Quiet Room” process seems like a joke to many, for example) and the NHL should stay on top of safety innovations.

The truth, then, is somewhere in between. The league still has room for improvement when it comes to preventing these injuries, but I don’t think that a drastic measure like bringing back obstruction is the answer.

What do you think, though? How far should the NHL go to curb this “epidemic?”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”