St. Louis Blues' David Backes (42) is helped off the ice by a Blues trainer against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period in Game 2 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series, Saturday, April 19, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
Bulldog: Trying to get my head around head shots.
Trying To Get My Head Around Head Shots
What are we supposed to do with head shots in the NHL? Assuming for starters you aren't in the "it's old time hockey/keep your head up/I thought you used to like tough hits/when did you become such a pansy?" camp.
We could ignore them, taking the position that if the NHL isn't going to take doling out punishment for them seriously, why should I?
I wrestle with this one frequently. The playoffs this year, not even a week old, have been fantastic. Great drama, young stars showing up, pretty goals. I'd rather not waste the energy debating how many games Brent Seabrook should get for blasting David Backes in the head.
But just like real life, ignoring your problems doesn't usually solve them. I want David Backes to be playing. Until he, do I want to say inevitably here given his physical style, crosses the line and hits someone in the head himself. Your best players need to be playing, not hunted.
Well, keep your head up, you say. Sure, there is some merit to that. It's what makes this conversation so interesting, or frustrating, depending on your perspective or maybe even your mood. Defenders have preyed on players with their heads down for generations in the sport. Catching them unsuspecting makes for the biggest collisions. Generally speaking I have no problem with this mentality. The one thing you can't do though, is hit that player in the head.
Some of us have come to learn this. We know so much more about the damage, both short and long term, that concussions can have. Scott Stevens unloading his shoulder, or elbow, into the chin of Eric Lindros looked almost textbook perfect 20 years ago.
Today, it looks like a play that has no place in the game. You can evolve with the new information you've gathered over the years or stand still and bemoan the sport getting soft. Choose the latter and you're a dinosaur. Choose the former and you're soft. Tough spot.
I'm trying to walk the line here. I want physical play in the game. The threat of the big hit is important to me as a fan. But you've got to avoid the head. When you don't, there needs to be a severe enough penalty so as to deter repeat offenders.
To this point, the league has failed to send that message, which brings us back to the top. Why should I care about this if the league and the players don't seem to?
Because the answer is out there and it starts with more meaningful punishments for the worst offenses. Try that NHL and see where it takes you. If the physical play in the game drops off dramatically then swing back the other way some. It's a physical game. Injuries are inevitable. Players trying to make clean hits will miss and end up making dirty hits. Punish them, for real, and see if those mistakes become less frequent.
Find the balance, that's your answer NHL. It's out there. It would help this fan if you even appear as though you are trying to find it.