The St. Louis Blues have had a rather interesting start to the NHL season. They had a big win and embarrassing loss to the Colorado Avalanche for starters.
The Blues lost Sammy Blais to a two-game suspension. It was arguable whether the hit warranted such a penalty, but Blues fans mainly accepted it based on the idea the NHL wants contact to the head eliminated.
What might be the biggest joke out of this situation is the fact the group that oversees these incidents is called the NHL Department of Player Safety.
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So, how are players being kept safe if Bortuzzo might be out with a potential concussion (there has been no word on that, yet)? Yet, we punish players for unavoidable contact that did not injure an opponent.
Colorado Avalanche fans have every right to be angry at Blais. If the situation was reversed, Blues fans would not be happy either.
However, the bottom line remains that a fine or one-game suspension would have sufficed if punishment had to be doled out. But for a similar situation to go unchecked is ridiculous.
As Jim Thomas pointed out in his article, Devon Toews missed nine minutes of game play while he underwent league concussion protocols. He then played over 22 minutes of that same contest.
Bortuzzo played 1:28 in the following game.
Beyond just ice time, you have to think of the physical aspects. Blais is 6’2, was in a crouched position and hit a player who’s head was outstretched while reaching for a puck.
Bortuzzo is 6’4. His head was contacted while he was standing upright and Valeri Nichushkin hit him from a poor angle too.
Adding salt to the wound, Blais was put in the penalty box for his hit. Nichushkin was not even punished during the game at all.
Where is the safety in all this? There was none for the Blues.
What is confusing is there was not even a hearing. Doug Armstrong was told the league feels the hit was within the rules.
When both hits involve contact to the head and one player was actually injured, how can it be that the play that does not injure someone is the only one punished?
There needs to be standards to these things. Right now the NHL is making itself look foolish and like player safety is the last thing it really cares about.