Marc-Edouard Vlasic is about to play his 1,179th NHL game, but he can’t tell you why the Minnesota Wild’s Mason Shaw escaped league discipline for a high hit on teammate Radim Simek on Sunday night.
Simek, struck just 24 seconds into his first shift of the contest, would leave the game with an upper-body injury. He did not return and was put on the IR by the San Jose Sharks the next day.
“Apparently, the league thought it was clean. I don’t make the decisions. But I guess it was clean. Guy got hit in the head and it was still clean,” Vlasic told San Jose Hockey Now with his trademark touch of sarcasm.
“But unfortunately,” he said more earnestly, “I still don’t know where the line is.”
Luke Kunin, ejected on Nov. 3 because of a high hit on Patric Hornqvist, has an understanding of the position that Shaw found himself in. He also played with Shaw in 2017-18 with the Iowa Wild and maintained that his former teammate isn’t a dirty player.
“I think you have an idea,” the veteran forward said about the line that he, according to NHL on-ice officials, crossed on Nov. 3, that Shaw didn’t.
It’s worth noting that Kunin did not faced supplementary discipline for his hit on Hornqvist. He did, however, receive a five-minute major, and the gate, a lot more than Shaw, who wasn’t penalized, and has in effect avoided all punishment for his high hit.
“Obviously, you can’t directly hit someone in the head. It’s a fast game. You can’t target and things like that,” Kunin opined. “There’s some gray when it comes to it. I think it’s such a fast game. A lot of things happen.
“Things happen so quick that things can look bad, and that’s not the intent. I think there’s a lot of different things that go into it.”
Vlasic offered his own assessment of the difference between the Simek and Hornqvist hits. The San Jose Sharks defenseman also admitted to being biased for obvious teal-colored reasons.
“I guess the difference between those two hits, the Simek, no one saw it. The Hornqvist, it was like an open ice hit, he fell, just stayed on the ice,” the veteran said. “So I guess if Simek would’ve stayed on the ice and people would have seen it, maybe [Shaw] would have been suspended. That’s my opinion. I guess if if it’s really noticeable in the game, then people talk about it, and then they have no choice but to do something about it.”
Kunin noted, “The league and Player Safety, they have a tough job as well. They obviously are trying to protect all of us.”
But whatever the NHL’s efforts on the player safety end, the San Jose Sharks are still down a defenseman, and based on the league’s response, there’s nothing to see here.
But of course, we saw it. Vlasic saw it. And Simek, unfortunately, didn’t see it.
“Guys are [still] getting hurt, injured, and suspended,” Vlasic said about the league’s purported efforts to increase player safety. “So it hasn’t stopped. I don’t think it will.”
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