Blog Entry

Looking ahead to 2012

Posted on: December 25, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 1:37 pm
CrosbyBy: Adam Gretz

The new year is right around the corner, and now that 2011 is almost in our rear view mirror, it's time to look ahead to what might be for the NHL in 2012.

1) What, if anything, will (or can) the NHL do about its concussion problem?

The NHL has a problem, and it's been highlighted throughout this season as some of the league's best and brightest players have been sidelined with head injuries at various times. And in many cases, an extended period of time.

Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, Milan Michalek, Mike Richards, David Perron, Marc Staal … the list goes on and on, and it doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. You can't go a week in the NHL, sometimes even a day, without hearing that another player has been diagnosed with a concussion or has been experiencing concussion-like symptoms.

With the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expiring after this season it's worth asking what the league and the NHLPA can do to help combat this problem. A complete banishment on all head shots will always be talked about it, but it seems unlikely to happen as long as the NHL's old guard remains in charge.

Perhaps my favorite suggestion, and one that would probably please most everybody, including the goaltenders, is to eliminate the ridiculous and nonsensical trapezoid rule and allow goaltenders to play more pucks in the corners. That would potentially reduce the number of times defensemen have to be subjected to violent hits from oncoming forecheckers in the corners.  Reintroducing the red line to slow the pace through the neutral zone has been brought up, as well as possible the addition of no-touch icing.

And speaking of player safety...

2) Will we get any closer to mandatory visors?

As we've talked about before, there are still enough players that view visors as their own personal choice (which it currently is) and something that they shouldn't be forced to wear.

But that was also once true for helmets and goalie masks, and they've now become an accepted (and common sense) piece of equipment. The issue seems to be getting more and more attention than it has in recent seasons, and the first reaction that comes up anytime somebody takes a puck or a stick near the face is to automatically look to see if said player is wearing a protective visor. Like the addition of helmets, it's likely a rule that will be grandfathered in. Perhaps making matters easier is the fact that many of the young players entering the league today are already wearing visors given that they're mandatory at the sports lower levels (the Canadian Junior Leagues, the American Hockey League).

3) Will the 2012 NHL season start on time?

The NFL went through a dreadful lockout that eliminated its offseason and threatened the start of its regular season, which was then followed by the NBA missing a large chunk of its regular season due to its own completely pointless work stoppage. Major League Baseball, suddenly the model of long-term labor peace in professional sports, quietly and quickly went about its business and had everything settled before anybody even realized their agreement was up for discussion.

And now it's the NHL's turn. Panic? Fire and brimstone?

Will the league and the NHLPA be able to come to some sort of an agreement like MLB did, or will it be more along the lines of the NFL and NBA where it's a long, drawn out process with maddening twists and turns that leaves fans pulling out their hair?

The last time we were in this position we lost an entire season and came back to a completely different league.

4) Will the Coyotes remain in Phoenix?

Until the team actually moves to a new home or a long-term, viable ownership situation is in place in Phoenix this question will not be going away. And if the former is what happens, what does that do to the NHL's new conference alignment?

The league went through a franchise relocation in 2011 that resulted in a radical realignment as the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, leading to the NHL overhauling its divisions and playoff format.

But what happens if the Coyotes, after surviving another season in the desert, don't remain in Phoenix and relocate, as has been talked about and expected for years? Do we have to go through another realignment discussion and re-do everything that was just settled?

5) How many more turns for the NHL's coaching Carousel?

Nearly half of the league went through some sort of head coaching change during 2011, and let's face it, with way NHL teams dismiss coaches there is no doubt the coaching carousel will continue to spin out of control. It's already kind of amazing that, with all of the changes that have taken place this season, Columbus' Scott Arniel has made it as long as he has given the worst start in franchise history. Toronto's Ron Wilson is in the final year of his contract and has recently taken to Twitter asking Santa Claus for a certain piece of paper (presumably a contract) for Christmas.

6) Will Nashville be able to keep its prized defensemen?

When Nashville signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to his massive contract extension earlier this season it produced one of two possibilities going forward: A) The team will now be a "cap team" and spend more money than it's ever spent before in an effort to keep its best homegrown players, or B) the signing of Rinne means one (or both) of their two No. 1 defenseman, Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, will eventually be lost to free agency.

Weber still has one more year before he hits the unrestricted market, and will once again be up for restricted free agency after this season. Suter, on the other hand, if he hasn't signed before July 1, will be eligible to sign with the highest bidder.

7) Who will host the next Winter Classic?

Technically this game won't be played until 2013, but the decision will be made long before then and every team wants an opportunity to host what has become the NHL's signature regular season event. Gary Bettman has already all but promised Washington D.C. the game in the very near future, so that's on the table.

I'm a fan of taking the game to Michigan, perhaps the Big House in Ann Arbor, for a Red Wings game, or even to the State of Hockey and allowing the Minnesota Wild to play host to the game for its passionate fan base at perhaps either Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) or TCF Bank Stadium (University of Minnesota stadium).

Photo: Getty Images

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


Since: May 21, 2011
Posted on: December 29, 2011 1:52 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

I think it would be great if the Red Wings hosted the game at the Big House and then got a matchup with a former great rival in Toronto.  My biggest fear is that the NHL wont allow the Winter Classic to go more then a year or so now on without either Crosby or Ovechkin in the game.  I can see them putting Pitt vs someone like NJ next year again in Heinz Field.  I do find is strange that we have only seen one game featuring any Western Conference teams playing, yet we have already seen Philly and Pitt play now twice.  Hey NHL, there are more then just teams from the Was/Philly/Pitt area playing hockey in this country, might be wise to allow them to play.  Besides, if you gave the game to the Wild or Avs, you wouldnt have to worry about it being too warm for the game.

Since: Oct 8, 2006
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:23 am

Looking ahead to 2012

Start a Pee Wee league for all players under 6' so they can all skate around quickly & safely without ever being hit, that will eliminate a lot of the concussions.

Since: Dec 24, 2011
Posted on: December 27, 2011 7:48 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

Slow the game down.  The NHL made all these rules to get more scoreing but has also made the game faster.  Players dont get slowed down the same because of all the interference calls now.  The combination of this speed and the hard equipment is too deadly.   I hope the NHL does something soon we cant keep losing players like this.   Get well soon Shea, Sid, Chris and others who are suffering from this  awful injury.

Since: Apr 21, 2009
Posted on: December 27, 2011 11:22 am

Looking ahead to 2012

i'm not surprised by that. 

how witty. not finishing your check leads to this B.S. occuring in the NFL. 

make up your minds. is this a big boy sport, full contact or not.

i agree with making pads smaller and softer. makes perfect sense. so does altering the helmets. but this notion of not finishing a hit is just completely queer.

Since: Dec 10, 2007
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:28 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

you lost me there.

i'm not surprised by that. 

Since: Sep 8, 2008
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:22 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

This is dead on.  I played college hockey back in the late 1980's and the equipment we wore back then compared to the combat gear of today's players is ridiculous.  There is a reason defensemen are fearless when they go down to block shots today.  They are wearing almost full body armor.  As Misterfamous says it used to hurt to block shots and throw hits with elbows/shoulders but today it's the opposite. 

I'd seriously scale down any hard plastics above the waist on non-goaltenders.  Plus like the article says eliminate the trapezoid, bring the red line back into play.  Players used to hit each other just as hard in the 80's and concussions weren't a problem then. 

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: December 26, 2011 6:15 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

Hockey is a contact sport.  Being selective about many of the hits is simply ridiculous and puts the NHL on the same path as the confusion in the NFL today. 

The solution to solving concussions is relatively simple.  A case can be made to make visors mandatory, since pucks fly faster off today's sticks, and can cause concussions and serious eye injury.  But the most important thing to change is the size of the pads today's players wear.  Thanks to modern materials, pads are large, lightweight and very dense.  A shoulder thrown in today's NHL can crack skulls, whereas in the NHL of the 1980s and 90s, it would be painful to the player making the hit.  Goalie pad size was once reduced to enable more scoring (it's since been increased, in conjunction with proportion to body size).  If the NHL did that just to make games more exciting, why not do something similar to increase safety ?

Since: Nov 28, 2006
Posted on: December 26, 2011 5:39 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

"How many concussions does a boxer sustain in his career. How many concussions would he susstain if he was getting punched with a hard plastic  lined boxing glove. How about you soften up the shoulder pads and elbow pads. Id sooner be knocked in the head with a soft padded shoulder than a shoulder covered in armor"

Ask Mohammed Ali, that is if you think he is capable of answering.

There is no way to completely eradicate the head shot from hockey. Taking all hitting out of the game would be a big step but then we can kiss the game goodbye. So really it's about minimizing risk. As long as two players have a right to the same piece of ice there is going to be contact. How we change that is beyond me. Maybe we need to look at basketball rules where there is clear suggestion as to who has the right to a place on the court and when. Some defensemen play it that way anyways and then are benched.

I think many of the head shots occur with overly ambitious play by players carrying the puck through the neutral zone and across the blueline. The timely art of passing or dumping the puck in is often overlooked. 

How does a 6'5 playyer not hit a 5'10" player in the head?

All too often the blame is solely on the person who hits or defends a place on the ice and not properly on the wanton and wreckless play of the concussed.

Since: Apr 21, 2009
Posted on: December 26, 2011 5:33 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

take out the idea of "finishing your check"

you lost me there.

Since: Sep 17, 2007
Posted on: December 26, 2011 4:29 pm

Looking ahead to 2012

I don't care if they play in "bubbkle wrap", whatever that is, but they shouldn't ever remove fighting from the game. In-House enforcing is a unique aspect of hockey and the aforementioned injuries to top players were sustained in routine game situations, not fights. The notion that abolishing fighting from hockey would curtail the concussion problem is a gross and misguided overreaction.

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