Your rants: Shoulder pads and OT discontent

November, 10, 2009
You know, what I should really do is give you guys my home office phone number and let you rant on my voicemail. On second thought, this is fine. Again this week, I've let you puckheads rant, and I'll attempt to soothe you with some answers:

big_jim: I've got a gripe about the hard plastic caps on the shoulder pads and elbow pads of most players' equipment. I think that this contributes to how much a player gets injured when they get hit in the head. Modifying the equipment would help reduce the amount of injury each player would sustain upon impact. With this change, the clean hits wouldn't be such a big issue

LeBrun's take: Big Jim, Kris King of the NHL's Hockey Operations office in Toronto has actually been tackling this very issue for a number of years. I was in the NHL Toronto office just last Friday and saw several prototypes for softer shoulder and elbow pads. But the process is slow. I sent your rant to King today, and here's what he answered back in an e-mail:

"This process of modifying shoulder pads (caps and arm extensions) has been ongoing for a better part of five years. The idea is to cover all contact areas of the shoulder pads with [half-inch] padding similar to the way elbow pads were modified in 2003. The manufacturers have helped to build prototypes and currently some NHL players are actually using pads that have these characteristics. The implementation has been slowed by the process of having the NHLPA's approval to move forward. Hockey Ops feels that this project is worth the effort and plan on pursuing it further."

Sphinn: I seriously just want to see the Oilers full line up together again. That 6-2-1 start made me smile, and now it seems like a distant memory. I need them to rebound.

LeBrun's take: Injuries and the flu bug have absolutely hammered this team. They played Sunday's game in Denver without two-thirds of their top line and overall without four of their top nine forwards. Not to mention that their top blueliner, Sheldon Souray, remains out. In the meantime, the flu has ravaged the roster. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini told me over the weekend that he's never seen anything like it -- the way it zaps the energy from his players. All you can hope for is for the Oilers to get healthy, and in the meantime gut out some big wins like the one Sunday night over the Avs. Most teams in the league will go through injury and flu issues during the course of the season. It's how a team survives them (or not) that most often decides whether they make the playoffs.

Bengals1934: My gripe is about the shootout. I think this is the worst in-season overtime system in all of sports. This has absolutely nothing to do with the team game of hockey. Some teams have a couple players that have great breakaway moves, and that give them a great advantage, which is not fair. As much as I hate ties, I would much rather go back to the old version of overtime. If the NHL is worried about teams playing for the tie, instead of going for the win in overtime than make a win worth three points and a tie one point from now on. It may be a flawed system, but something has to happen; this is the worst way to end a hockey game possible. These players put everything they have on to that ice, and the deciding factor is a glorified penalty shot.

LeBrun's take: Bengal Boy, you think the shootout is a bad way to end regular-season games? What if I told you the Olympic gold medal game could be decided that way? Because that's the truth. What an ugly thought that is. But as for NHL regular-season games, I don't mind it, my friend. Walk into an NHL rink during a shootout and tell me how many people are actually sitting down. The majority of fans dig it, and that's why it is here to stay.

t_sil: These blindside headshots need to be punish much more severely. The league cannot continue to ignore or give a game or two. Someone will be very badly injured or worse one of these days. There is very little respect being shown among the players.

LeBrun's take: Your wish is the NHL's command. The league's 30 GMs are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday here in Toronto, and hits to the head and blindside hits are the agenda headliners. Check back in for our coverage of the GMs meeting to see what they decided to do, if anything, about it.

cikiri: My beef's with St. Louis Blues Head Coach Andy Murray.

First, I'm a Los Angeles Kings fan. While the Kings enjoyed their most recent success under Murray, I have to believe all the injuries the Kings suffered during his tenure had a lot to do with the way he runs his teams.

My beef isn't with his coaching techniques, his inspirational videos, his quizzes, his required reading, etc. No, my beef is with his use of my favorite player, Paul Kariya.

Watching Kariya on the Blues is beyond frustrating. Murray's got Kariya playing on the checking line with B.J. Crombeen and Jay McClement. And he's removed Kariya from the powerplay, instead deciding to play him on the penalty kill. Even during Kariya's prime, he was never a great defensive player. Granted, every Mighty Ducks coach from Ron Wilson to Craig Hartsburg threw Kariya out in every single situation because those teams were so terrible. But Kariya is not 25 anymore.

Get Kariya out of St. Louis now. Better yet, get Kariya in a Kings' sweater. He was offered a deal three years ago by Dean Lombardi before he signed in St. Louis. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. St. Louis isn't going anywhere fast with Andy Murray at the helm.

He'd be perfect on the Kings second line with Stoll and Brown. Kariya can still dish the puck with the best of them. Imagine Kariya playing below the goal line dishing a one-timer to Stoll along the sideboards with Brown screening the goalie. Magic. No need to thank me, Dean, just make it happen.

LeBrun's take: It is quite bizarre to see what Murray has done with Kariya. I mean, I know Paul is struggling, but if there's anywhere he's going to help you, it's on the power play, where he's made his living for 15 years. Here's what Murray told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over the weekend when explaining why Kariya was taken off the power play:

"We were going to use [Kariya] a lot killing penalties. It was a matter of not overtaxing Paul. If you check his minutes, he played a ton. And when you're playing on that 'stopper' unit, you're playing a lot. I always come back with the 'stopper' unit after a power play, so I wanted Paul for that, too."

Sorry, not buying any of that, Andy; nice try! Listen, the coach is obviously frustrated with a 26th-ranked power play, and maybe this is a way of sending a message to everyone on the team. But you need Kariya back on the unit. Case closed.

honk_for_the_goose: See what happens when you don't tale my rants? Sabres drop two in a row, not only drop but killed by two toss-up teams. For the second year in a row, the hype of the fast start is blown out like a candle from the lazy play of the Sabres. I thought we had grown up and got past that. Can the Sabre faithful expect an early end to another season?

LeBrun's take: Honky Goose, sit down, take a deep breath and relax. I want you to visualize Brad May's 1993 overtime goal against the Bruins. There you go -- happy thoughts. OK, now that I've got your head in a good place, I can tell you this: The Sabres will be fine. Over the course of an 82-game season you're going to have your bad weeks. This club is not falling apart. Keep the faith, my friend, these guys are the Bills.

gdixon09: Dear Gary Bettman, put NHL back on ESPN! You will instantly increase the popularity of your sport by 100 percent. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

LeBrun's take: Amen.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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