TAMPA With all of the talk of raising the red line from the dead and allowing obstruction back into the game during this weeks NHL GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Claude Julien is sticking to his guns.
The Bruins coach like many of the NHL GMs doesnt see the benefit of inserting the red line back into the game, and its admittedly difficult to see how thats going to significantly reduce the head injuries rampant throughout the league. Hes got a wish list of things hed like to see tweaked just like everybody else.
If you think deep about it for long enough youll always come up with a couple of things, said Julien. Those delay of game penalties are tough calls when the puck is rolling off your stick and its not deliberate. Maybe suddenly youre killing a penalty in the final minute of the game. If you eliminate that or leave it to the refs discretion it puts a little more pressure on them because who says its deliberate.
Much to Juliens expected chagrin the NHL general managers plan to keep the delay of game rules intact for pucks fired over the boards under duress or even accidental in nature.
Julien also thinks theres a healthy level of legal obstruction currently in a game thats moving faster by the year, and players can impede the speed by simply holding their ground on the ice.
According to NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King, the leagues statistics say that head injuries in the NHL have stabilized over the last two years even if players like Chris Pronger and Marc Savard may be done playing forever because of too many concussions.
The anecdotal evidence is compelling, but the raw numbers say that the NHLs efforts to root out headshots are slowly having the desired impact.
Instead the Bs coach is in the camp that wants to reduce the size and potential danger of shoulder pads worn by all players. Basically the philosophy goes a little something like this: its better for a player to have a separated shoulder from throwing a hellacious hit than a head shot victim knocked out by a shoulder to the noggin.
Its hard to argue that one.
The biggest thing for me is always the safety of the players. How do we deal with that? said Julien. Part of me feels that the game has really picked up its pace, and the equipment along with the strength of the guys has helped cause injuries. Im one of those people encouraging the league to look at the upper body equipment: the shoulder pads and the elbow pads.
The shots are so hard these days that you really need the legs pads and shin pads just to protect you. But when it comes to shoulder pads and elbow pads Id rather see a guy out with a separated shoulder than a concussion. Thats my opinion. If you minimize the padding then youre going to minimize the injuries because guys are going to slow down before they come in for a hit in the corner. Id take that trade-off by subtracting some of the hardness from the shoulder and elbow pads. Thats something Id like to see and its logical to at least have a good look at.
Julien isnt alone in his suggestion of downsizing the upper-body equipment for NHL players, and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury has been another vocal critic of the hard shoulder pad shell that looks more like armor than athletic equipment. But that wasnt expected to be on the GMs agenda for discussion amid the hybrid icing and raging trapezoid debate.
Part of that may be because the NHLPA would have to sign off on any radical equipment changes and it appears theyve put away their rubber stamp with collective bargaining with Gary Bettman scheduled for this summer. But downsizing the shoulder and elbow pads seems to no longer even be considered as the NHL moves on to other yeah or nay decisions on issues facing the league.