WILMINGTON, Mass. -- While Bruins head coach Claude Julien completely supports and advocates Rule 48 preventing blindside shots to the head he was not thrilled with the four-game suspension handed down by the NHL to Bruins forward Daniel Paille Friday for his hit on Stars forward Raymond Sawada. One issue addressed by Julien is that players are constantly -- whether it’s carelessness or trying to draw a penalty -- putting themselves in the line of fire for a serious head injury.
“It’s a very touchy question because I think we’re all supportive of the new rule that’s come in and at the same time, I think you want to support your player and you look at it over and over again and at the end of the day you gotta respect what the league is trying to do,” said Julien when asked about the Paille hit and suspension. “Having said that, my opinion to that is that I think once that rule is set and it’s put into place, there’s no other rule that can kind of take care of the other part of it and that’s the part of the other player. There’s a lot of responsibility that’s taken off the player that’s getting hit now.
So until the players themselves in their minds, start thinking about stopping to put themselves in vulnerable positions -- whether it’s playing with your head down or whether it’s by the boards and seeing you’re going to get hit and turning your back -- whatever the case may be, I think if the players start taking that responsibility, I think its going to minimize a lot of these things and that’s where that belongs to me, solely on their shoulders.”
One of Julien’s own players, Patrice Bergeron suffered a devastating concussion on October 27, 2007 when he was hit from behind into the boards by then Flyers defenseman Randy Jones. Bergeron would miss the rest of that season and is only now starting to realize his full potential as a player. However, Bergeron has become the prime example of what Julien is advocating here, knowing how to brace himself for a hit or to avoid one if given the chance.
“He doesn’t do that when somebody’s coming at him, he spins off,” Julien said of Bergeron. “I’m talking about when someone’s coming at you from five feet away, you know you’re going to get hit and you turn your back to him? I think there’s some responsibility there that has to be put on both (players). First of all a guy has to be careful, but what if he’s facing him until the last fraction of a second and the guy turns, how’s he supposed to stop?”
Julien believes that even with Rule 48 in place and more possible head shot rules being discussed, these injuries and incidents won’t decrease until players get smarter on the ice.
“As a player, I know if I was the player, I wouldn’t want to have a concussion and I would try and avoid putting myself in those situations. That’s all I’m saying, to me I think that until the players really need to take it upon themselves, you’re still going to have those things happening and we can minimize that if they do their part. That’s my opinion.”
Sawada was playing in only his eleventh NHL game but Julien didn't agree with the idea that inexperience at the NHL level should be an excuse for not keeping your head up or being smarter.
“Once you’re in the pros, you’ve been told for many, many years never to play with your head down,” Julien said. “So if he hasn’t learned by now, he shouldn’t be in the pros.”
As he pointed out, Julien and the Bruins are in complete support of Rule 48 but his point is when does common sense and responsibility have to factor in as well?
“We’re 100 percent behind that, the blindside hits, there’s no place for that,” Julien said. “When a player doesn’t see another player coming, we’re 100 percent on that. I’m talking about when a player sees a player coming and he turns his back to him at the last second and some guys have done that. I’m talking about when a player is going along the ice with his head down, I want to make sure that the players understand it’s not all on the one guy hitting but also they have to take that responsibility.”