When NHL General Managers gather in Florida next month, it will mark the 1 year anniversary since they fast tracked Rule 48 into the books and onto the ice. It was the league’s attempt to crackdown on hits to the head, sending notice that lateral and blindside hits to the head of an opposing player will get you suspended. That was only a start because the problem is far from being fixed so the story is far from being finished. You can bet the G-M’s will be discussing the issue again and it will get even more attention if Sidney Crosby is still sidelined by concussion related issues.
My guess is G-M’s will look at statistics to help determine the effectiveness of Rule 48 to this point. They should examine the number of hits to the head as well as the length of the suspensions to see if it is indeed a deterrent. They might even talk about the idea of a total ban on hits to the head which sounds very sensible but will spark a major debate about whether or not they are overreacting and negatively impacting the physical part of the sport.
What they should do is talk about the old school mindset that still exists in the league. Former Sabre Dan Paille was suspended recently for his blindside hit on a Dallas Stars player. Paille’s Bruins teammate Andrew Ferrence was smart enough to say if the league is going to crack down then this is what has to happen, even though his teammate was suspended. You can’t complain about what happened to Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron and say Paille shouldn’t be suspended. Yet it was Bruins Coach Claude Julien who pulled out the old “let’s place some blame on the victim” line of reasoning. Julien said the players have to stop putting themselves in vulnerable positions, whether it's playing with your head down or playing by the boards, seeing you are going to get hit and turning your back. He said if the players take responsibility it will minimize a lot of these things. I agree with the part about players taking responsibility, but the responsibility lies mostly on the player dishing out the blow. This is like going back to the Chris Neil hit on Chris Drury and blaming Drury for not having his head on a swivel or better yet, for not having his helmet strapped on tight enough. You can change the rules, you can stiffen the suspensions but that obviously isn’t enough to change the mindset of some coaches and players.