Merry Concussionmas

What a week it was, more NHL stars got nailed with the concussion bug, Kyle Turris got traded, HBO’s road to the Winter Classic aired its first episode and the coaching changes continued as we’ve reached a new high(low)? in firings before the new year.

Headache Woes

Chris Pronger was shut down for the season after his concussion symptoms became to severe. And get this Winnipeg fans may be to blame according to Paul Holmgrem who said that during the game in Winnipeg his symptoms became worse because of all the noise. Don’t believe me watch the video below at the 1:55 mark he talks about how it was too much for Chris to handle.

Holmgren later goes on to say how this could be career threatening and my question is with everything the NHL is doing to promote awareness and diagnosis of concussions why was Pronger playing in Winnipeg to begin with and why didn’t he leave the game if the noise and the lights were bothering him too much?

I certainly understanding wanting to play, I played through a concussion in high school because I didn’t want to sit out but I was 18 years old and back then concussions weren’t causing some of the best in the world to stay home. The player at the end of the day has to be responsible for themselves and Pronger should have known something was wrong. I don’t blame the Flyers here I blame Chris. Claude Giroux unfortunately suffered a concussion on a freak play colliding with teammate Wayne Simmonds and looked to be ok after the first day but came forward and admitted he wasn’t feeling right the next day.

As painful it might be to miss games, it’s better to miss 15-20 then be forced to retire and deal with the lingering side effects for the rest of your life.

The NHL can do everything it can, it could take hitting out of the game, it could take fighting out the game, it could wrap players in bubble wrap but the fact is that accidents will still happen and players will still get hurt and part of that will be their heads getting whacked around and having concussions.

The only way they won’t become an epidemic is if the players take responsibility for their own careers and be open and honest after they get whacked around. If Pronger was aware of his headaches and had made the team aware he had a possible concussion then maybe he doesn’t play in Winnipeg and maybe the noise and the lights don’t make it worse and maybe Jets fans don’t have to live with a bit of guilt that we may have helped end a Hall of Fame career before it’s time.

The NHL has done enough now it’s up to the players to protect themselves from their own stupidity.

Turris Soap Over

Kyle Turris finally got his way out of the desert and is on his way to Ottawa. Now I’m not here to analyze the trade, theirs hundreds of journalists that will do that. I’m here to talk about how this deal affects the Jets and the rest of the teams. Turris wanted a trade and a new contract. Phoenix didn’t want to give into demands and made it clear the only way Kyle would play this season was if he signed a deal with them.

In doing so the Coyotes prevented Turris from screwing them over and more teams should take note of that situation. They likely made a verbal agreement with the forward to trade him as soon as a good deal came along if he signed a contract with them. Turris would have had little choice but to agree if he wanted to play in the NHL this season. The end result is a good young defenceman and a second round pick coming back to Phoenix for a player that wanted out.

Most teams have simply shipped a player out to avoid the cancer it can cause in the room but Phoenix wouldn’t be bullied and managed to get some value out of a bad situation. Once a player makes it known he wants a trade it makes it very difficult on the team to get a fair deal. But by the Coyotes publicly stated they wouldn’t give into his demands it allowed them to negotiate a trade as they would with any of the other players in their system.

The Coyotes have given the other 29 teams an example of how to handle an unhappy player, lets see if the next team handcuffed in this position can learn from them or not.

24/7 Flyers Rangers

Last years four-part series on the Capitals and Penguins had no shortage of star players to focus on. This year you have two teams that have solid rosters top to bottom but have very few stars to capitalize on. Pronger and Giroux were perhaps the most name brand skaters on either of the two teams and we know Pronger is done for the season while Giroux is also suffering from post concussion syndrome and could very well miss the game or worse rush back too soon to participate in it.

The two goalies are perhaps the biggest stars left healthy right now and Ilya Byzgalov showed us a glimpse into his personality on episode one. Maybe now those clips of him not paying attention during the anthem make sense, I’m not saying the guy does drugs but he looks like he’s just permanently high on life and in his own little world. The old saying goes you have to be nuts to be a goalie could certainly be true in his case.

Maybe that explains his comments about Winnipeg more than his apology did. It’s like the Universe and he just didn’t know what was out there.

It was nice to see Torts rip into Ansimov for the lovely celebration he pulled off that we discussed in last weeks column. It should be little surprise that Avery was the first one into the room with a smirk of approval for Ansimov. And his explanation of trying to emulate one of the players back home only reiterates my point that celebrations should be spontaneous not planned out.

It will be interesting to see how the next three parts play out,if the focus will be on the guys playing or on the injuries and how they handle Giroux’s concussion could be under intense scrutiny if he comes back and plays too soon.

King Sutter

While the Kings believe they have their man in Darryl Sutter the Canadiens felt they didn’t in Jacques Martin and has become the latest coach to be giving his walking papers this season. In my first column I explained just how hard it was to win the Stanley Cup with a mid-season change, or even a first year coach. It hasn’t been done very often so the way I look at it each coach that gets fired improves the chances the Jets could actually win the Cup this year so fire away!

In all seriousness though Martin’s firing makes it six on the year and the most coaches fired before the new year.

Randy Cunnyworth an ex-Jet will take over in Montreal and even if he leads the team to the Stanley Cup may not be able to remove the interim label simply because he doesn’t speak french. I hate to bring up your storied past but one of your greatest coaches of all time and the reason you have memories of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard didn’t speak french. What if Dick Irvin was passed over because he didn’t speak french?

Maybe it’s time to get a translator for press conferences and just hire the best coach no matter what language he speaks. Can you imagine if you got rid of all your non-french speaking players as well?

Culture is great and all but when you hire a coach based on language skills over coaching skills you are setting yourself up to no hire the best man for the job. Los Angeles didn’t let anyones opinion about Sutter dissuade them from hiring who they felt was the best man for the job. Could you imagine if they did… oh wait bad example.

Point is success for a franchise normally comes after stability at the head coach position and if you hire based on anything other than hiring the best man for the job you’ll end up firing him midseason and have to start over.

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.