There might not be another player more qualified to speak on the concussion issue in the NHL than Eric Lindros because (a) he had six from 1998-2000, then two more before his retirement and (b) because, in most cases, he was a living illustration of "what not to do." Unless putting your head down and trying to skate through Scott Stevens is actually a principle of player safety.
Lindros spoke with the Toronto Sun this week about how NHL rule changes since the lockout have created conditions in which head injuries happen with frequency.
"The game has changed; the rules have changed," the Big E said Monday night from Toronto just before heading out to play the game he loves so much.
"They did away with the red line (for the two-line offside pass), so the rate of speed through the neutral zone is much higher. Defencemen can't help their partners by slowing opponents down between the blue line and the top of the circle and goalies can't play the puck behind the goal line outside that (trapezoid) area."
This isn't a revolutionary thought, but it's an ironic one coming from Lindros. Here's a player who posted some of the best offensive numbers of the "dead puck" era in the NHL, fighting through the trap during the 1990s. The rule changes were intended to, and in many ways succeeded in, undermining those defensive systems and opening up the game. More exciting hockey, yet more injurious hockey — it's trade-off and the NHL's toughest moral quandary these days, because there's no question hockey is more popular now than when Lindros was captaining the Legion of Doom.
Of course, the one constant between the eras is that there are always players willing to target an opponent's head in any situation. Lindros, on today's head-hunters:
"There are a handful of players in the league who fall into that category in a large way and Matt Cooke(notes) is one of them," Lindros said. "And you know what the unfortunate part is? When the time comes for him to be a free agent, some general manager will sign him and pay him more than someone who kills penalties or plays on the power play because of his -- I can't really find another word for it -- trashy style of play."
The former Quebec Nordiques Philadelphia Flyers star said NHL VP Colin Campbell has a tough gig but also a political one, as "certain teams get taken care of differently than others, no question." So Lindros is in favor of a three-person independent panel for suspensions, which is an idea we also support.
In the end, the NHL can only do so much. It comes down to player responsibility. And whether Lindros would ever admit it or not, that goes for the concussers and the concussed.