Canuck GM cool in support for Mitchell after he criticizes NHL over head shots

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VANCOUVER - Vancouver Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell was red hot this week in his criticism of how the NHL has failed to deal with the issue of blows to the head.

Canuck general manager Mike Gillis was a little cooler Friday in offering support to Mitchell.

"I didn't expect that," Gillis said in his year-end address to the media. "I think Willie is entitled to his opinion. He voiced it very strongly and clearly."

Mitchell's season ended in January when he suffered a concussion after a hit by Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins that sent him head first into the boards.

Mitchell said he was disappointed in how Colin Campbell, the NHL vice-president who handles all the league's discipline issues, has been inconsistent in his rulings. He even suggested Campbell has been reluctant to suspend some players because of his relationship with NHL general managers and owners.

Gillis was asked if he agreed with what Mitchell said.

"That's a question that can only get me in a lot of trouble if I answer that," he said.

Gillis then seemed to offer support for Campbell.

"It is a terribly difficult job," he said. "The speed of the play is so fast and player are so big, we have a changing dynamic.

"I think the league does its absolute best in trying to discipline and keep players under control and keep them from hurting one another. Sometimes it appears to others that it could be done better. Sometimes it appears like it is being done perfectly. It's a case by case basis."

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