Head Shot Debate
It's uncanny how often an NHL issue that percolates all season long suddenly appears at critical times in the post-season.
It was that way with Brett Hull's toe in the crease in the 1999 Stanley Cup final. It was that way when Brian Campbell shot the puck over the glass in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. And it's happening again this year with Chris Pronger being suspended twice for head shots, including one on Dean McAmmond Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
McAmmond spoke to the media this morning, and you could tell that while he wants to play in Game 4, he's worried over the long-term effects of being hit by Pronger's elbow and kept referring to his former Calgary teammate, Matthew Lombardi, and the lengthy battle he had with concussion issues after being hit by a Derian Hatcher elbow in the post-season several years ago.
So much of the coverage of the incident has been about Pronger, with much less devoted to McAmmond, who was knocked cold on the play. Somehow a one-game suspension doesn't seem quite adequate when an honest, journeyman player has been injured in a way that could affect his long-term health.
At least McAmmond kept his sense of humour. As he was explained the symptoms he was still feeling in his head and in his neck, he quipped: "Believe it or not they're kind of connected, even on me."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle wasn't laughing, and seemed to question the depth of McAmmond's actual injury.
"People make huge strides in their recovery after suspensions. It's amazing," he said.
Joe DiPenta will sub for Pronger and, if McAmmond can't play, Patrick Eaves will enter the Ottawa lineup. Ex-Leaf Ric Jackman, meanwhile, will likely have to suck up a big chunk of the minutes for the missing Pronger and absorb a little bit more power play time.
When Pronger was suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference final after an illegal hit on Tomas Holmstrom, the Ducks won 5-3 but surrendered 39 shots. Scott Niedermayer (34 minutes) and Francois Beauchemin (34:29) absorbed most of the minutes, with Sean O'Donnell (24:06), Kent Huskins (12:38), Jackman (6:37) and DiPenta (8:47) splitting up the rest of the workload.
But the bigger news today could come out of the GM meetings down the road from the arena at the Brookstreet Hotel when head shots, like that by Pronger on McAmmond, will surely be up for discussion.
What should the NHL do? Sens coach Bryan Murray didn't have an easy answer - although he suggested five and a game for the most obvious fouls - and neither did McAmmond.
"On the ice there are some grey areas," he said. "It's a matter of how they govern those grey areas."