I wrote a few years ago about diving & player's incentives.
It appears like it would be a good idea to branch these concepts out the hits to the head.
Many people were calling for a suspension after Cooke's hit on Savard. It all happens so fast, so it's hard to tell if Cooke was trying to hit his head or hit his shoulder and missed. I doubt Cooke wanted to concuss Savard. Even if they suspended Cooke it wouldn't effect the Penguin's all that much. Management would not be punished for using the player. The team is not punished for not discouraging this activity. A depth player is kept off the roster for a week. Easily replaceable. Suspensions do next to nothing to prevent hits to the head.
Many people would agree that it is often best to create rules and design systems that encourage self enforcement (encourage people to "tattle - tale" or reprimand their equals). In systems like these there are far more eyes keeping watch over the player's actions. Lets say a player hits another player in the head and doesn't get caught (minor incident, no injuries). The coach isn't going to bench the player. It's quite possible he will be praised for finishing his check.
Now lets set up some new rules:
- If any part of a player's arm or shoulder contacts a opposing team member in the head a automatic 5 minute major penalty will be assessed.
- Subsequently, if determined by a referee, a intent to injure 5 minute penalty can be added.
- This penalty can be called after video review if a player is injured.
Some adjustments would have to be made for face washes etc, but you get the point...
In terms of marginal goals a 5 minute major is worth about -0.5 goals and would cost the team about 10% of a win (or about $100,000). A 2 game suspension would've cost Cooke $30,000 personally.
With these rules, an undetected hit would result in the coach benching the player for fear that they could get caught next time. Team mates would not be happy if they lose the game because of this penalty.
You could still suspend the player if you like. And of course the NHL prefers their system of dice justice.