Last night's contest between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild featured a play that will not make the box score (save as an unassuming shot on goal), and will not make any highlight reels. But this play is indicative of a larger problem in the NHL that thus far has yet to be seriously addressed:
The play in question is this shot taken off the mask by goaltender Corey Crawford:
GIF: Crawford didn’t come out of the game or get checked for a concussion after this. pic.twitter.com/Xn4mx49Tkx— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 4, 2015
The immediate aftermath of the GIF does not even show the entirety of how wobbly Crawford looked following the shot. Even if Crawford was not concussed, there was clearly something wrong, something which merited a wellness check by a qualified medical professional.
Yet, the only stoppage in play occurred almost a full minute later, and it lasted just long enough for Crawford to switch masks and get right back in the game.
This play represents just how systemic the problem the NHL has in dealing with concussions and head injuries. It is tempting to confine the problem to one facet of the league or one portion of the Chicago Blackhawks' organization, but everyone league wide contributes to the problem.
The NHL does not empower the on-ice officials with the support/backing necessary to prevent players clearly suffering from some form of head ailment from taking the ice again until a thorough health check is completed. Nor do they provide an independent medical professional who is not under the job pressure to green light a star player to return to the game as fast as possible, regardless of the health risk.
NHL teams do not have the incentive to prioritize the long-term health of their players, most of whom will not retire with their current team, over the short-term goal of winning a Stanley Cup. And players do not have the incentive to take themselves out of a game and potentially cost themselves playing time - and a more lucrative contract - insofar as the league has no plan for managing the lifelong harms associated with CTE and other head injuries.
The problem is widespread, involving pretty much every part of the league. For a solution to work, there must be buy in from everybody too.
- Arizona Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney has been overseas for at least part of the 2015 IIHF World Championship. While there are plenty of Coyotes for Maloney to take a peek at, I'm sure he's equally intrigued in Viktor Tikhonov.
- Tikhonov's KHL numbers are decent (115 points in four KHL seasons), but his last season was his least impressive (eight goals and 16 assists in 49 games). How much - if at all - does Maloney want to commit to Tikhonov?
- Connor Murphy and John Moore have been paired for much of the preliminary round of the World Championship. In their last game against Russia, the two broke up several Russian odd-man rushes.
- A Murphy-Moore pairing would be intriguing, especially since Murphy seems destined to become more of a stay-at-home type of defenseman as he gets more experienced. With Moore's speed and puck making ability, a Murphy-Moore pairing reminds me a lot of a Keith Yandle - Derek Morris pairing from a few seasons ago.
- Would I be surprised if David Moss returned for another season? Not really. He was a cheap contract, played a limited 4th line role pretty well, and would be a veteran presence on a very young team.
- Here is Moss' HERO chart:
- The shot suppression/generation numbers are nothing to scoff at for the role he plays. He's not going to magically become Sidney Crosby. Or even Radim Vrbata for that matter. But those are pretty good numbers for practically league minimum.
- The "Dave Tippett is going to opt out" rumor mill has pretty much ground to a halt over the past couple of weeks. Why?
- For Dave Tippett, the desire to win doesn't matter a whole lot if his new job is not on a team capable of doing that. The majority of the openings in the league right now (Toronto, Edmonton, Buffalo, etc.) are not big improvements over Arizona.
- The one job that I think might interest Tippett should it become available is if the St. Louis Blues decide to part ways with Ken Hitchcock. The Blues are arguably the "best" team with coaching questions right now.
- While the fact that Tippett and his family are well-settled in the Valley is one consideration, another is that Tippett has had six years to shape not just the Coyotes' roster, but the Coyotes' farm system too. This is a franchise that is more or less geared to play the way he wants them to play.
- Tippett's interest in analytics may also play a role in the final decision too. There are several advanced stats that suggest this season was an abnormality in how terrible it was. Granted, the team will likely not suddenly leap back into the playoffs next year, but they should at least compete for a playoff spot for much of the season with just a few improvements. Does Tippett believe that to be the case?