If we’re to see the NHL successfully steer through the hardships of concussions and enforcers dropping like the Superstars of Wrestling, then it’s going to need some leaders. Tampa’s Steven Stamkos may be one of the league’s young elite talents that the catalyst for change set could come to rely upon to help make real adjustments to the game. Damien Critodero of Lightning Strikes spoke with Stamkos about his brief and busy offseason, and the 21-year wonder stud talked openly and honestly hits to the head, among other topics.

Stamkos on players being held more accountable for head shots:

“At the end of the day I’m not saying every one of those hits that resulted in a concussions was avoidable. It’s going to happen. It’s a contact sport its so fast you’re going to get them. But in order to minimize them I think as a player you have to be aware of the situation on the ice. We’re trying with the head shot rule. I don’t know what other rules you can put in to prevent it. Guys have to be responsible. … You look at some of the head shots, guys are blatantly putting their elbows up. A guy’s back is turned and you hit him into the boards. That comes down to common sense. We all know how to deliver a clean body check. You have to be accountable for your actions on the ice. With some of the suspensions getting a little steeper, guys are going to realize that if they do that, they’re not going to get away with it.”

Like most of us civilized folk, Stamkos’ concern rests around eliminating the grey area surrounding hits to the head and moving away from the idea that only injurious blows should be subject to punishment:

“If it’s a shot to the head, it shouldn’t depend on if a guy is out with a concussion and misses a year or if he’s out for that shift. It should be standard. You get hit in the head, it’s a head shot and you have to deal with it.”

As far as Rule 48 goes, Stamkos believes it’s a good start but admits that new rules alone can’t make the problem go away:

“I think that’s a great rule. That’s a start. Now, it has to fall upon us as players to be accountable.

We’ve tried changing the rules and it’s still happening, so guys have to be more responsible.”

Oh, Stammer, how your ability to avoid canned answers gives us a semblance of hope for the future.

Given the off ice events of the past few months, it’s in the NHL’s best interest to listen intently to its players. Whether it’s with issues related to head shots, substance abuse, mental health, or the overall safety of the game; generative communication between the league and its players is paramount to a healthy state for hockey.

And if you were wondering… Cristodero also asked the question that’s on everybody’s mind: will we get to see that mullet on the ice this season? To which Stamkos replied, “I doubt it but we’ll see”.