Ron Wilson has coached the Maple Leafs since 2008, but has finished last in the division both seasons. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
What would your reaction be if an NHL legend stood up today and said the following:
“Concussions have brought the consciousness to the problem, but I think the problem is (sport)-related injuries period and the lack of support from the league of those players who have suffered those injuries…the denial factor has been unbelievable. I’m here because I’m fighting to try to bring attention to this fact.”
Well, that’s what NFL icon Jim Brown told a concussion symposium Thursday. And I think virtually all of his comments can be applied to the NHL and its treatment of head injuries. Take this one, for example:
“All the denial that's taken place over the years to keep the league from having to pay money or the players’ association taking advantage of their players and not representing them properly, all those things have gone on,” Brown said. “Only now years later here we are saying concussions. People have been getting knocked out for years and going back in the game unsupervised.”
But here’s the most important message – directed at those who pull out the “you want to take physicality out of the sport” arguments that always are heard when player safety issues are raised (again, just substitute “hockey” for “football” below”):
“People want football and they want hard-hitting football, so to me it's not the thing of hard-hitting football,” Brown said. “It's at least taking care of your wounded. I don't want football to not be played, but I would like the sophistication brought forth to take care of those who need to be taken care of and to take the precaution, at the sacrifice of winning, to take care of people.”
Amen, Jim. Now let’s hit the mailbag. Hard, but with sophistication (I’ll wait to continue until you’ve finished throwing up a little bit in your mouth):
Adam, with San Jose signing Antti Niemi recently, the Sharks now have three goalies in their system. How often can we expect to see Niemi protecting the twine? Will he be the go-to starter this year, or will the Sharks try and push Greiss? I can hardly see Antero Niittymaki playing more than the backup/third-string role. Your thoughts. Thanks Adam!
Bryce Schmode, St. Albert, Alta.
I believe Niemi and Niittymaki will split the Sharks netminding duties – at least until one of the two goes on a lengthy hot streak.
Greiss, on the other hand, makes roughly $1.5 million less than both Niittymaki and Niemi; I’d imagine he heads back to the American League until an injury befalls one of the veterans. The beauty of Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s salary management is that he can carry all three goalies without worrying about the cap limit forcing him to move one right now.
Care to make a wager on whether the Blue Jackets can make the playoffs? You have them ranked as 14th in the West, so you must be pretty confident they won't make it. Let's see how confident you are. We should make a friendly wager and I will let you pick the stakes.
Daniel Jenkins, Xenia, Ohio
Given my past history with bets against Columbus – and despite some friendly prodding from Blue Jackets PR man Ryan Holtmann – I’m sure you’ll understand my hesitancy to engage in future wagers regarding that organization.
But let’s do it this way: if Columbus makes the playoffs, I’ll return to Nationwide Arena next April and fire the team cannon – I repeat: fire the cannon, not be fired out of the cannon – while wearing a Jackets jersey. And if they don’t make it, everybody from Columbus can come up to Toronto and buy me an adult refreshment. Sounds fair, I think.
It’s barely the start of NHL training camps, so why am I hearing a lot of talk about Ron Wilson being on the firing line? I thought the way the Leafs played late last year would have showed people the man can coach. Thanks,
Jason Franklin, New York City
I’m with you – and not just because of Toronto’s performance after they cleared house with late-January moves. Did people not see the U.S. men’s Olympic team in Vancouver? That squad was far from the most talented in the tournament, but Wilson pushed an up-tempo attack and the result was what the Maple Leafs hope their team will look like this season.
Even if the Leafs do stumble, I fail to see how bringing in another coach will solve their lack of firepower at forward. And as many have mentioned, the best thing Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has been proficient at lately is a perpetual turnover of GMs and coaches; turning the page again, just for the sake of change, will only reinforce the circus-like atmosphere in Ontario’s capital.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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