Tag:Concussions
Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 8:05 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 7:58 am
 

Chris Pronger done for season, playoffs

By: Adam Gretz

Word began to surface late Thursday afternoon that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was going to be out indefinitely due to his various ailments, including the concussion-type symptoms he was recently experiencing.

That wasn't really anything new, as he was already out of the lineup and the team had already announced that he would be indefinitely. But then Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren addressed the media Thursday evening, just after the team faced off against the Montreal Canadiens, and dropped the bombshell that the veteran defenseman will be sidelined for the remainder of the season as well as the playoffs.

“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins," Holmgren said, "it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome. It is the recommendation of Doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return to play for the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs.  Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”
More Chris Pronger Injuries

In 13 games this season Pronger scored one goal to go with 11 assists.

Concussions have been sweeping like wildfire across the NHL over the past couple of weeks, something the Flyers currently know all too well. Along with Pronger, they're also playing without forwards Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, both out with concussions.

Nobody seems to know for sure when Pronger suffered the concussion that has now ended his season, but he's had a lengthy list of injuries this season. Earlier in the year he was sidelined after taking a stick in the face, and was most recently out due to a procedure on his knee. It wasn't until after that procedure that we first heard about his concussion symptoms.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: December 14, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Hurricanes say Skinner, Pitkanan have concussions

By Brian Stubits

The hits keep on coming (no pun intended).

On Wednesday the Carolina Hurricanes announced that not one but two of their best players are the latest to catch the concussion bug that's spreading through the NHL. Reigning Calder Trophy winner -- and leading scorer with 12 goals and 24 points -- Jeff Skinner and top defenseman Joni Pitkanen are both out indefinitely because of the injury.

That means in the last 48 hours Skinner, Pitkanen, the leading goal scorer Milan Michalek and NHL's leading points man Claude Giroux have all had concussions announced. Throw in Sidney Crosby's possible concussion that was announced on Monday, and you have an all-star caliber list of concussed players.

The Flyers showed on Tuesday that they might be able to withstand the loss of Giroux by destroying the Capitals in Washington 5-1. But the Hurricanes are already in a world of hurt, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Being down arguably their most talented offensive player as well as their top offensive defenseman will make new coach Kirk Muller's challenge of getting the 'Canes back in the playoff race even more monumental.

But the bigger question at play here has to do with why the players -- some of the league's best, mind you -- dropping like snow in Alaska. Concussions seem to be so much more common these days than they ever were. Why is that if the game hasn't changed much, if at all?

Well primarily the issue at hand is that now concussions are actually being recognized and diagnosed in a way they never were before. How many concussions went unknown through the history of the league is impossible to know, but the number is likely astronomical. However with today's education and attention to brain injuries, they are being treated with more caution.

But it can't be ignored too that this is one of the side effects of a bigger, faster and stronger athlete. Some of the guys on the ice any more are tanks on skates, massive bodies travelling at high rates of speed. Things are bound to get a bit uglier on the injury side.

At this point it's hard to find a player in the league who hasn't been concussed.

Photo: Getty Images

More NHL Concussion News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Milan Michalek's fast start

michalek2

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the the fast start for Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek.


By: Adam Gretz

(Note: I started to prepare this Tuesday evening after Milan Michalek took over the NHL's goal-scoring lead, and before he was injured. It was announced on Wednesday that's he day-to-day with a concussion. I decided to go with it today anyway.)


Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michalek unfortunately became the latest player in the NHL to suffer a concussion during his team's 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night when he collided with his teammate, Erik Karlsson, in the second period. It had to be a tense moment for the Senators and their fans to watch as their two best players this season smashed into each other. It's the second time in a week that an accidental collision between teammates sidelined a top-scorer with a concussion, as Philadelphia's Claude Giroux is currently out after Wayne Simmonds hit him in the back of the head with his knee over the weekend.

Michalek's status for future games is still unknown at this point, and while the team currently has him listed as day-to-day, you simply never know with concussions. It could be a couple of games, it could be a couple of weeks, or it could be even longer.

Head coach Paul MacLean said on Wednesday that he didn't think it was going to ruin his season, which is good news. Hopefully, for his sake and the Senators, he's able to return to the lineup soon enough.

Before exiting Tuesday's game he did manage to add to his early season goal total, scoring his (as of Wednesday morning) league leading 19th goal of the season, pushing him past Toronto's Phil Kessel and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.

It's been a magnificent start to the season for 27-year-old forward, and by far the best of his seven-year career. Through 31 games he's only seven goals behind his previous career best for a full season (26), and was on a pace to shatter that total assuming he kept producing at the same rate -- even if that were unlikely to happen, even before the injury.

Currently, Michalek is shooting at a 21 percent rate, a mark that few players have been able to top over a full season in recent years. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, only eight players that qualified for the league lead finished with a number that high, and pretty much all of them were single season outliers in each players career. And that's kind of what's happening for Michalek this season.

For his career, he is a 12 percent shooter, and his previous six individual seasons have all fallen between 10 and 13 percent. Like most players, he's been pretty consistent in that area.

How does his hot start compare to his previous seasons through the same number of games? Let's take a quick look:

Milan Michalek's Goal Scoring
Year Goals (through 31 games) Shots On Goal (31 games) Shots Per Game (31 games) Shooting % (31 games) Full Season Shooting %
2011-12 19 88 2.80 21.5%  N/A
2010-11  7  63 2.00 11.1%  10.8%
2009-10  15 85 2.74 17.6%  13.5%
2008-09  8 75 2.41 10.6%  12.8%
2007-08  10 98 3.16 10.2%  10.3%
2006-07  10 76 2.45 13.1%  13.6%
2005-06  4 52 1.67 7.6% 10.7%

Obviously, this season stands out from the rest.

One of the factors that's gone into his increased production (both goals and shots) is that he's simply playing more than he has in recent years. Throughout his career, whether it's been with Ottawa, or his previous team, San Jose, he's typically averaged about 18 minutes of ice-time per game. This season he's up over 19 minutes, and not only playing more in even strength situations, he's also seen a small bump in his power play time.

But no matter what he's done through this many games, his single season shooting percentage has always regressed toward his career average of 12 percent, and unless he suddenly became the best sniper in the NHL in one offseason, that's probably going to happen again this year once he returns to the Ottawa lineup.

What could reasonably be expected from this point on? Well, if he were to play every game the rest of the way (and we already know that's not going to happen, as he's already out for Wednesday's game against Boston and is probably expected to miss Friday's game when the Senators host the Penguins) and maintained the same number of shots per game, and shot at his career level of 12 percent, he would still score an additional 17 goals this season. Even if he shot at the league average rate of 9 percent, that would be in the area of an additional 12 goals. Both of which would not only give him a new career high, it would shatter it. Either way, it's been a career year for him.

But before any of that happens or can continue, he and the Senators need to make sure he's 100 percent healthy and completely recovered before he returns to the lineup.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:06 pm
 

Top goal scorer Michalek day to day (concussion)

By Brian Stubits

For the second time in as many days, one of the offensive leaders in the NHL is out of action with a concussion. If you want to add another superstar being out with concussion-like symptoms, then it's three for three.

Monday it was Sidney Crosby announcing he's out indefinitely. Tuesday the Flyers said leading scorer Claude Giroux is out with a concussion. Now the same goes for the NHL's surprising leading goal scorer from the Ottawa Senators, Milan Michalek.

As was the case with Giroux, Michalek's concussion was sustained in a collision with a teammate, not an opponent. In Tuesday's OT win in Buffalo, Michalek ran into his young and talented defenseman Erik Karlsson, which certainly seems to be the culprit hit. It came a short while after Michalek passed Phil Kessel and Steven Stamkos for the league lead in goals with his 19th of the season.

The good news for the Senators, however, is that Michalek is said to be feeling better today and as of now is being listed as just day to day. It's possible he won't miss any time at all, though it is doubtful. Better to be safe than sorry.

"I don't think it's going to ruin his year, much like the other major injuries he's had in the past," coach Doug MacLean said.

This is the second concussion Michalek has suffered dating back to January 2010.

You have to wonder what steps will be next by the NHL to try and help solve this concussion issue. The league is already trying to cut down on them by punishing bad hits. Now they might inspect the equipment again. Everybody knows it will be impossible to get rid of the concussion danger in hockey. In a physical sport such as it is, it's inherent. But they should do all they can to reduce the odds.

There is already one owner, the Flyers' Ed Snider, saying the equipment is too hard now. Whether or not they do anything in the near future is still to be determined, but it will at least remain a conversation when top players are dropping like flies.

For those keeping track at home, that's the league's leading scorer (Giroux) and leading goal-scorer (Michalek) in the last 48 hours. You can also add in Crosby and Mike Richards.

Kessel and Stamkos: Keep your heads up and on that proverbial swivel.

Video courtesy of The Score

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Top NHL scorer, Claude Giroux out with concussion

By Brian Stubits

Already without their captain Chris Pronger because of a concussion, the Flyers are going to sans not only their top scorer, but the NHL's leader in points, Claude Giroux, indefinitely with a concussion.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren made the announcement on Tuesday.

"Claude reported not feeling very good today," Holmgren said in a statement. "Over the past few days, his symptoms have gradually gotten worse. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion.

This was the fear after the Flyers' win over the Lightning this weekend. It was in that game that Giroux was hit in the back of his head by teammate Wayne Simmonds' knee in a flukey accident. Simmonds did his best to avoid Giroux, who fell to the ice on a checking attempt, but his knee smacked Giroux square in the back of the head when he tried to leap his teammate.

The Flyers have been able to hang tough through all of the injury issues they've been dealt, but this one will test them like no other. Giroux is atop everybody's list of early season Hart candidates, posting 39 points in just 29 games for Philadelphia this season, helping the Flyers to the top of the Eastern Conference. The next closest player in the scoring department for the Flyers is Scott Hartnell with 26 points.

"When he goes out we look for the veteran players like Danny [Briere] to step in," coach Peter Laviolette said, "and we also look at the young players like Matt Read or Sean Couturier to pick up the slack."

"Obviously he's a guy you can't replace," James van Riemsdyk added. "It's going to take a lot of people to step it up and fill the role that he plays. He does everything for us: penalty kill, power play, scores big goals, makes big hits, blocks shots, does it all. So we're going to have to kind of step up our game here. Just let him rest and not have to rush him back."

So that means in the past two days Pennsylvania's two best players (Sidney Crosby the other) announced they are out indefinitely, Crosby for more concussion-like symptoms.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Pronger, Schenn out with concussion symptoms

By: Adam Gretz

At this point, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is pretty much a one-man M*A*S*H unit.

Currently sidelined for the next few weeks after having surgery on his knee, which came after he missed a couple of weeks after taking a stick in the eye, and was then out with what the Flyers called a "virus," it was reported on Friday that the veteran defenseman is also suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
More Chris Pronger Injuries

It's entirely possible, if not likely, that the "virus" had something to do with the concussion symptoms he's currently experiencing.

"While Chris' knee is improving, he has struggled with other issues that are concussion-like symptoms," said general manager Paul Holmgren in a team statement. "Chris will see Dr. Joe Maroon and Dr. Mickey Collins on Wednesday, December 14th in Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Chris will be out indefinetly."

Dr. Mickey Collins, of course, is the same doctor that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby has been seeing over the past year.

Pronger isn't the only player on the Flyers currently dealing with concussion symptoms, as Holmgren also announced that forward Brayden Schenn will also be out indefinitely with a mild concussion. Said Holmgren in the same statement, "Brayden reported 'not feeling himself' on December 5th. Our doctors believe he has a mild concussion."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 8, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Looking deeper at concussions, fighting in hockey

By Brian Stubits

If your Facebook news feed is anything like mine, Dec. 7 was filled with loads of remembrances for Pearl Harbor Day, 70 years ago this year. Despite nobody I saw posting about never forgetting the day weren't even born, it was a worthwhile message nonetheless. Never forget the lessons and hardships of the past.

I would like to say the same about Derek Boogaard, the former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers enforcer who died over the summer of an accidental overdose, a deadly mix of alcohol and Oxycodone. Don't forget his life and death -- same goes for Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.

In case you missed it, I strongly suggest you carve out a good chunk of time to check out the recent three-part story from the New York Times on Boogaard's life, an award-worthy story. It's incredibly well done. It's moving. I am not ashamed to admit that by the end of the story, I was on the verge of tears.

New York Times: Punched Out. Part I | Part II | Part III | Video

Of the many things to come out of the story, one was the revelation that Boogaard's brain, which had been donated to the Boston University study exploring Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), was showing shocking amounts of the condition already. To put it comparatively, Boogaard's 28-year-old brain had a worse CTE condition than the brain of Probert, who was 46 years old when he died.

Now I know what you're going saying: "Oh great, another anti-fighting story." Well, yes, for the most part this is. I have made my unpopular opinion on this topic made known in the past. But the latest information on Boogaard, the fact that his brain was severely damaged, it's worth revisiting.

Instead of just me standing on a soap box, I turned to Dr. Ricardo Komotar for some information on the discussion. Dr. Komotar is Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in neuroscience from Duke University, spending a year at Oxford University in England to focus on neuropharmacology. He received his medical degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with highest honors and completed his internship and neurosurgical residency at Columbia University Medical Center/The Neurological Institute of New York, followed by a surgical neurooncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to specialize in brain tumors.

So he knows a thing or two about the brain. I'm sure you can probably assume the answer, but what's his take on fighting in hockey?

"I think it should be 100 percent banned," Dr. Komotar said. "It's clearly unnecessary violence. Fighting is something you can obviously eliminate immediately. When you're talking about eliminating head blows in football, you're kind of limited on what you can do without completely changing the sport. Fighting in hockey seems like something that you could eliminate without changing the sport at all. You could make a big change, I think, without really altering the fundamentals of the game."

Which is true. The game itself wouldn't be effected. They still play ice hockey the same way in the Olympics and NCAA, do they not?

Dr. Komotar continued.

"Think about it. The only reason fighting is allowed is for entertainment purposes. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, it has nothing to do with the competitive nature of the game. They keep it because the people that go to hockey games want to see a fight. It's kind of sick. You're letting people do bare-knuckle boxing just so the crowd gets a tease out of it. It's something that has nothing to do with the game and only risks the players just so the crowd can get a thrill. It doesn't make sense to me.

"It shouldn't be something you're warned against. I mean the refs don't even break it up. That's crazy. The refs should just break it up. It shouldn't be endorsed.

"I mean to me it seems very straight forward, [removing fighting] is the clear, logical thing to do."

The hockey purists say fighting does play a role in the game. It's the old reasoning that the threat of violence actually prevents violence. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello put it this way.

"Fighting is part of our game," Lamoriello said. "It impedes more injuries to happen because of what potentially can happen with people taking liberties they shouldn't take."

I have heard this rationale for a long time and I just don't buy it. First of all, if Player A does something to injure Player B, a lot of times a fight ensues not between those players or even involving one of those players. Instead, it will be enforcer vs. enforcer. Where is the deterrent for a player that isn't answering for his own hit but letting somebody else do the dirty work?

But moreover, I believe there is actually evidence to show how backward this thinking is. This season, concussions in the NHL are down 33 percent, the league says. That's a very steep drop. And what is the difference between this season and past seasons? Why, Brendan Shanahan as the league disciplinarian, of course.

Under his short time in the role, he had made a concentrated effort to remove dangerous plays from the game. And if the stats are to be taken at face value, it seems to be working. It leads me to the conclusion that nobody can better prevent dangerous plays than the league office itself. Getting serious on fines and suspensions is doing a better job getting the dirty and dangerous hits out of the game than any enforcer ever did.

With all that said, getting rid of fighting won't happen any time soon. Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that point again to the Times, saying that there is no appetite for among the powers that be in the league to remove fighting from the game.

Here is the third of three video segments from the Times that deals more with Boogaard's brain study. The Bettman interview begins around the 9:30 mark.

But here's the crux of what inspired me to write about this topic again today. The state of Boogaard's brain was so deteriorated, it took the researchers at BU by surprise. Of the entire story, though, this is what perhaps caught my eye the most.

Last winter, a friend said, a neurologist asked Boogaard to estimate how many times his mind went dark and he needed a moment to regain his bearings after being hit on the head, probable signs of a concussion. Four? Five? Boogaard laughed. Try hundreds, he said.

Needless to say, things like that have caused the conversation about fighting in the sport to start up again. It's no wonder why Boogaard's brain was so deteriorated.

Here is something Bettman had to say at the Board of Governors meeting, and I quote the Associated Press. "He [Bettman] said he considers head trauma that comes from fighting different from injuries that come from hits because fighters are willing combatants and not taken by surprise."

"I use one word for that," Dr. Komotar said. "Ridiculous. Head trauma is head trauma. The origin of the head trauma doesn't matter. You get hit bare knuckle in the right spot, it can be a lot worse than if you get hit against the wall by a check, and vice versa. The reason for the head trauma and the situation for the head trauma has zero impact on its chronic effect. It's head trauma no matter how you slice it."

Bettman also said from the BOG meeting this week that there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the link between concussions and the CTE that has been found not only in Boogaard's brain, but the other three brains of former enforces that have been studied.

That is true. There is no direct causality and there might not ever be one.

"I think it's possible [to draw a causality line] because you're talking about ... everyone's brain is different," Dr. Komotar said. "Everyone's ability to have a concussion and recover is different, but I think what we've learned, especially in the last five or 10 years, is that it's not the force of one head injury. It's the repetition and the fact that you're not allowed to recover.

"Back in the day, people would have concussions and they wouldn't be allowed to recover the way they are nowadays. I think what is very clear is that repetitive concussions over a short period of time ... as those numbers go up, the risk of chronic brain damage increases. You'll never have a direct causality. Ten concussions equal this many years to your brain injury. Because every one's brain is different, and every concussion has a different amount of force. But what is known is that if you have three concussions in the course of three months, that's a lot worse than just one big concussion and then you're allowed a year to recover. Which is why the NFL and NHL have such strict concussion rules now."

It comes across to me as the league hiding behind a guise, ignoring the possibilities of the situation. What gets me is that since it can't be proven yet (maybe never), the NHL seems to want to go on with the status quo. It's akin to hearing that seat belts have a chance to save your life in the case of a car accident, but since you can die in a crash with your seat belt on, too, I'll just continue not to wear one.

It also reminds me of an argument that people make regarding religion. Some say they believe because if they are wrong, they won't know any better, but if the non-believer is wrong, then they will spend an eternity in Hell. Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? That's the same situation here, in my mind. Why not be proactive, be on the safe side? This really is a matter of people's lives.

It's not just about players dying, but the quality of their lives after playing. Nobody can know for sure, but if Boogaard were still alive, his quality of life wouldn't have been the same down the line.

"Tough to predict exactly [Boogaard's future condition], but the thought is that it [CTE] causes essentially an early Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson's condition," Dr. Komotar said. "So something like Mohammed Ali. Overall, it's the death of neurons from chronic and repetitive head trauma, which leads to neuronal cell death. So all the brain cells start dying and the brain starts looking like someone who is 30 or 40 years older. You get an early dementia, an early Alzheimer's and an early Parkinson's. Again, is it 100 percent correlated? No. But that's the thought and it's been known to happen, as it did in Mohammed Ali."

That would likely have been the result for a player who grew up fighting, made his living as an enforcer. I'm not trying to say here that the number of concussions played an impact in Boogaard's death. Sadly, the use and abuse of prescription drugs is as big a concern as anything.

But the issue of repeated concussions is very concerning. We are learning all the time more about them and the damage they can do.

"What's interesting is that the old school of thought -- and I mean about only 10 years ago -- the thought was that you had to have a loss of consciousness to have a concussion," Dr. Komotar said. "What people are realizing now is that less than 15 percent of all concussions involve a loss of consciousness. So you're talking about the vast majority of concussions, the person never loses consciousness. So you're talking about 80 percent of the time back in the past, people were having concussions and not recognizing it, then going back into action. That's where you get the real damage. People are starting to recognize now that you don't need a loss of consciousness. They are holding players out. They have much more stringent rules in terms of re-entering the game and that allows the brain to recover and it reduces the chance of chronic injury."

Now I've been watching hockey my whole life. I've gone to games since I was a boy. I understand that fighting is as much a fabric of the game as the ice they skate on itself. It's a tough, physical game and hockey fans are proud of the game's history, which includes fighting. I get that. It's such a small minority of people that want to see fighting removed.

Nobody likes somebody who just points to a problem. People want solutions.

That's why I'm here not to propose a removal of fighting from the game, instead, I have a different idea. Would it be popular among the players and coaches? Of course not. I can't think of anything that would. But nevertheless, here's my idea.

When players fight, they are required to go to the quiet room, the dark and obviously quiet room where players are sent for 10 minutes when it's believed they might have sustained a concussion. Every time a player gets into a fight, they are evaluated through the concussion screening process and if they are found to have sustained a concussion, they be diagnosed as such.

Essentially I'm turning the penalty for a five-minute misconduct into a 10-minute misconduct. It's a stiffer penalty, for sure, but it allows for fighting to remain in the game and it could drastically reduce the amount of damage being done to these players. As Dr. Komotar pointed out, it's the increased number of concussions a person sustains in a short amount of time that is so damaging. The thought is that this idea would go a long way in helping to avoid that problem.

But I'm sure it will be fought all the way.

Photo: Getty Images

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com