ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 5: Theo Peckham #24 of the Edmonton Oilers controls the puck against Jamie Langenbrunner #15 of the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on January 5, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Blues beat the Oilers 4-3. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
When I look at the standings I find myself wishing that the Oilers and the Canucks could switch places. I am by no means a Canucks fan but I can’t deny that that team is pretty damn good and with the Oilers two years into the five-year plan that is Rebuild II, it would be a welcome change to cheer for a team that I expect to win on a nightly basis. Unfortunately the Oilers can’t just switch places with the Canucks on the ice but they might be able to learn something from them in the dressing room, like how to deal with concussions.
On Sunday afternoon in a game against the Blue Jackets Theo Peckham stayed down on the ice for about 15 seconds after taking a hit from Rick Nash. Peckham was sent to the "quite room" for evaluation but returned a few minutes later to play another five shifts only to leave the game with a concussion before the end of the first period. Given the NHL’s concussion protocol that sequence of events doesn’t seem right to me.
Jonathon Willis must have thought the same thing and wrote a post at Oilers Nation on Sunday night on how the Peckham concussion situation progressed. From that story:
Theo Peckham was on the ice roughly two and a half minutes later in the game after taking the Nash hit. In real time (starting from the moment Peckham started down the tunnel to the moment he was back in camera view on the ice), Peckham was gone for less than five minutes. It strikes me as implausible that he met with the doctor, went through the entire test, was cleared to return, and then got back on the ice in that span of time. Fifteen minutes is the commonly cited time frame required.
I want to give the Oilers and their medical staff the benefit of the doubt that they took the possibility that Peckham suffered a concussion seriously but this is a team that has a history of being either unable or unwilling to diagnose concussions. This would certainly seem to be another example of that. I don’t bring up the past to blame the Oilers for past mistakes but instead to show that they aren’t improving in this area. Everyone makes mistakes but the key when you make a mistake is to learn from it and not repeat it. The Oilers don’t seem to be capable of doing that.
Did the five shifts that Peckham played after the Nash hit worsen his concussion? We’ll never know for sure but I can’t see how they could have possibly helped. This was a game that meant absolutely nothing, there was no reward to the risk being taken. So why take the risk? Concussions are very serious and the Oilers need to take them seriously or there will be more situation like Peckham's where a player returns only to suffer a potentially more severe concussion.
If the Oilers are in need of a model to follow they need to look no further than Vancouver for how to handle concussions. Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts (see number 25) yesterday shed a little light on how the Canucks deal with concussions and blows to the head in general.
Some of the Blackhawks were surprised Daniel Sedin already showered prior to the doctor's visit last Wednesday. They thought it was awfully quick. But, you'll remember that when Cody Hodgson wobbled after his December collision with Ottawa's Nick Foligno, the Canucks refused to consider a return. Betting the same thing happened here. There was no way Vancouver was letting him back into the game, no matter what the doctor said.
Sedin knew before he even met with a doctor that he wasn't going back in. And looking into the Hodgson hit a little more it appears he actually passed the ImPACT test he was given but was still not allowed to return to the game. Rather than risk Hodgson’s health the Canucks decided to adopt a better safe than sorry approach that the players are now adopting as well. Compare that approach with how the Oilers handled the Peckham situation where they returned a player to the game only to have him leave with a concussion a few shifts later. The evidence is far from conclusive but it would certainly appear that the Canucks have a much better handle on the health and safety of their players when it comes to concussions.
As long as there is contact in hockey there will be concussions as well. Changes to equipment might reduce the number or severity but there will always be some. And future improvements to testing might make diagnosing a concussion easier, but until then it’s probably best for all involved if the Oilers try to be just a little more like the Canucks.