Dennis Wideman situation highlights NHL's concussion shortcomings

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Is the Dennis Wideman situation an indictment of the NHL's concussion policies?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: As we await the appeal process for Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension to run its course, it is troubling that what many of us had speculated since the moment the incident occurred is now a matter of public record. That comes courtesy of the NHL's video explaining its decision regarding the Flames defenseman: The league acknowledges that Wideman suffered a concussion on the play preceding his hit from behind on linesman Don Henderson. It is my understanding that the NHL's concussion spotter did his job in that game by flagging the potential concussion, but that Wideman refused to leave the game after being approached by a team trainer. I don't blame the player here whatsoever. If Wideman was concussed, he's the last guy who should make that judgment. This is where the league's concussion policy needs more teeth. If the spotter flags it, the player needs to leave the bench, no questions asked, right? Deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Thursday morning declined to comment when asked about Wideman's refusal to leave the game, saying he couldn't comment on facts or underlying circumstances until the matter is resolved. There's a lot at play here. I mean, there's an ongoing concussion-related lawsuit involving former players, and while the two aren't directly connected, this matter certainly makes you shake your head and potentially provides more fodder for that lawsuit. On the other hand, perhaps this very public example of a player not following protocol can be used by the league and NHL Players' Association to strengthen the current policy. Thoughts?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: Pierre, I couldn't agree more. The league did the right thing in suspending Wideman for 20 games, but also revealed that it's not really making good on the widely repeated stance that player safety is the top priority. I was in Arizona just before Christmas when the Coyotes' Max Domi flattened Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney, sending McElhinney's mask flying and causing his head to strike the ice. He was prone for a few minutes but then continued. Um, spotters? Concussion policy? If I'm the lawyers behind the ever-growing concussion lawsuit -- on Wednesday, 12 more former players joined the group that believes the NHL should have done more to protect and/or educate its players about brain trauma -- I'm paying pretty close attention to what appear to be significant gaps in the scope and implementation of current policies.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: If any player exhibits symptoms of a concussion, he should immediately be removed from the game. After this latest incident involving Wideman, maybe referees should be allowed to stop play if it's evident a player is concussed. I know there are a lot of variables involved in deciding whether a player is dazed and confused, but with increased knowledge and awareness these days, it seems to be easier to detect. In Wideman's case, he was obviously stumbling to the bench, but that's still no excuse for hitting the linesman. The rule on making contact with on-ice officials is black and white, and that's why the league gave him 20 games. The league probably expected Wideman to appeal. The end result on this situation, not only for the suspension, but also the league's decision on how to handle concussed players going forward, will be interesting.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Yeah, based on what I saw from Wideman as he plowed over Henderson, his decision-making capabilities weren't top-notch at that moment. And yes, he probably isn't the right guy to be making the call as to whether he should have kept playing. It shouldn't be optional: if the spotter spots a potential concussion, get the guy out of there. Still, as bad as the optics are when a player remains on the ice while concussed, it might help Wideman's case in the appeal. If he had no idea where he was while he was skating to the bench, he probably had no idea who he was steamrolling on the way there. It's not a defense; Wideman still needs to be accountable for his actions, but it might remove the idea that his intent was malicious in some way.

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