The "new" concussion protocols voted on by general managers this past week that went into effect Wednesday -- including removing the player suspected of having a concussion to a quiet place, away from the ice, to be examined by the on-site doctor using the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool guidelines -- were needed steps taken by the league.
But as with the sometimes hazy nature of concussions, these new protocols are not foolproof. Penguins GM Ray Shero -- whose star, Sidney Crosby, just resumed skating Monday and could return this season from a concussion suffered on New Year's Day -- pointed out that teams may have to alter their medical staffs on the road, taking a team doctor with them instead of just a trainer.
Shero told the NHL's website that only one team, the Blackhawks, currently travels with a team doctor, and they started doing that only this season.
Plus, there are concussion symptoms that don't show up until 24 to 48 hours later, or even more, as happened with Crosby, who played four days after his concussion and has been out since.
"We're not going to be 100 percent when we do these things, but I think it's a big step to help," Predators GM David Poile told the website.
Games getting tighter, dirtier
Considering all the focus on hits to the head among the GMs in Boca Raton from Monday to Wednesday, it was an ugly week for excessive force on the ice.
The same night, Bruins rookie Brad Marchand elbowed the Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger in the head, drawing an ejection and a two-game suspension. Later Tuesday, the Sharks' Dany Heatley delivered an elbow to the head of the Stars' Steve Ott, drawing a major and also a two-game ban.
On Thursday, the Predators' Patric Hornqvist was ejected but fined only $2,500 for an elbow to the head of the Bruins' Tyler Seguin, who needed stitches to reattach part of his ear lobe. Also that night, the Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier was ejected for slashing the Canadiens' P.K. Subban. Subban and Lecavalier had been jostling for the entire shift before the slash, which was not to the head.
Rangers looking to restock the farm system
The Rangers signed draft picks Ryan Bourque (third round, 2009) and Dylan McIlrath (first round, 2010) and could have as many as a half-dozen prospects playing for Connecticut of the AHL next season.
McIlrath, the 10th pick in June, recovered from a knee injury earlier this season to go 5-18-23 with 141 penalty minutes in 60 games for Moose Jaw of the WHL. He doesn't turn 19 for a month, so he wouldn't be eligible to go to the AHL after training camp next season.
But Bourque, who has 26 goals and 31 assists for Quebec of the QMJHL, almost certainly will be in the minors next season. Carl Hagelin, a 2007 sixth-round pick, is close to signing a pro contract and going to Connecticut for the end of this season.
Look for these other amateur prospects to be targeted for the minors next season: 2009 first-rounder Chris Kreider, 2009 picks Ethan Werek and Roman Horak, and a dark horse, Russian defenseman Mikhail Pashnin, who is only 21 but displays a Darius Kasparaitis-esque personality and playing style.
Shorthanded goals and penalties
Brandon Prust is tied for the NHL lead with five shorthanded goals and is 14th in the league with 133 penalty minutes. No player has managed to finish in the top 10 in both categories in the last 30 years. Those who came closest:
Player SHG / Rank PIM / Rank
Brandon Prust, NYR, 2010-11 5 / T-1 133 / 14
Alex Burrows, Vanc., 2009-10 5 / T-1 121 / T-26
Alex Burrows, Vanc., 2008-09 4 /T-3 150 / T-17
Theo Fleury, NYR, 2000-01 7 / T-2 122 / T-47
Brendan Shanahan, StL, 1993-94 7 / 1 211 / 21
Rick Tocchet, Pitt., 1992-93 4 / T-7 252 / 13