TORONTO â€” Blake Wheeler was still puzzled Tuesday morning by the NHL's disciplinary process.
The Winnipeg Jets captain understood why the league dealt teammate Jacob Trouba a two-game suspension for his hit to the head of Senators winger Mark Stone, but he couldn't fathom how Evgeni Malkin escaped punishment for a similar (if still different) check to the head a few days earlier.
"I think we feel internally like they got half of it right," Wheeler said before a meeting with the Maple Leafs.
Wheeler had just tried to clear a puck in the Jets zone last Thursday against the Penguins when Malkin hit him high and hard. The Pittsburgh centre received a minor interference penalty and drew no further discipline. That irked the Winnipeg winger, especially in light of the suspension to Trouba.
Wheeler didn't buy the argument that Malkin delivered his hit through the body whereas Trouba connected principally with the head.
"You don't touch the puck, (he) leaves his feet, hits you in the head so that's the unfortunate part about it," Wheeler said.
"It makes you wonder if you sit out a couple games then does he get a phone call. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation on my end. You just like to see consistency. Bryan Little breaks his back last year, the guy doesn't get a phone call. But they're consistent on our end so that's really all we can focus on now."
Wheeler was referring to Little's season-ending back injury last season when the Edmonton native was hit hard in mid-February game by Anton Stralman. The Lighting defenceman drew no penalty on the play nor any supplementary discipline.
"Malkin's a pretty good hockey player," Wheeler said. "I think he knows who has the puck and when they have the puck. His instincts are pretty good out there. I never had the puck, never even saw him coming; he comes from the side of me and all I felt was my head snap back."
Wheeler said he was still feeling the sting of the hit and hoped Malkin's star power wasn't affecting the supplementary discipline process.
Winnipeg's head coach Paul Maurice pondered his response to the Trouba suspension before noting that "cheapness outweighs my disappointment".
In other words Maurice wasn't risking a fine to criticize the league. Still, he acknowledged that "any of the spinal fractures that we've suffered over the last year would weigh into my disappointment."
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press