Did Alex Edler get away with a hit to the head against the Nashville Predators?

Thanks to his run-in with Mike Smith, Alex Edler is halfway to repeat offender status. All he needs to do is offend again. People who follow the Canucks closely are likely sceptical that he will do so, since Edler is one of the quietest and most unassuming players in the league and not prone to taking runs at other players.

Or maybe he is. According to Dirk Hoag from Nashville Predators’ blog On the Forecheck, Edler took a run at Predators rookie Mattias Ekholm, leading with his elbow and making contact directly with Ekholm’s head on Monday night.

The accusation caught me a little off-guard. There was no fuss made over the hit during the game, either on the TV broadcast or on Twitter, and Edler didn’t receive a penalty. But Hoag thought the hit was dirty and even worth supplemental discipline. Is he right? Let’s take a look at the hit itself:

Perception is a funny thing. The only reason Sportsnet showed the replay of this hit is that it appeared that Jannik Hansen was injured on the play. I admit, I was so busy trying to figure out if Hansen had injured his arm when he landed on it that I hardly noticed that Edler had hit Ekholm at all. A Predators fan watching the same replay, however, immediately latched onto the Edler hit and saw it as dirty.

Hoag claims that Edler “takes his left hand off his stick and extends his elbow to deliver the hit well before contact is made, and directly targets the head” but suggests that he’s unlikely to face supplemental discipline for two reasons:

  • Ekholm returned to the game and played in the third period.
  • History tells us that the NHL tends not to give a crap when players on teams like the Predators get run.

I think Hoag does some fantastic work at On the Forecheck, but I think he’s off-base on this one. I agree with him that Edler is unlikely to get suspended for this hit, but I completely disagree on the reasons why. It has nothing to do with Ekholm not getting injured or a supposed anti-small-market bias from the league.

I don’t think Edler will get suspended for hitting Ekholm in the head because I don’t think Edler hit Ekholm in the head.

I did my best to isolate the point of impact from the limited video available of the hit and it appears that Edler makes impact with Ekholm’s right shoulder and not his head:

After repeated viewings, I can’t see Edler hitting Ekholm in the head, but even if he did, a suspension would be unlikely due to the position Ekholm is in, with his head in a low, vulnerable position. If Ekholm had been in that position for a significant length of time prior to the hit, that would be one thing, but he puts himself in that position to reach for the puck just prior to impact.

The other reason I don’t see this as a hit to the head is that not a single one of the Predators’ players or coaches mentioned it in any of the post-game interviews, from what I can tell. Ekholm was even the subject of a brief feature after the game from The Tennessean, but it focussed entirely on the rookie’s increased comfort level in North America and how Barry Trotz felt he had improved since appearing in two games for the Predators last season.

If either Ekholm or Trotz felt that Edler’s hit was questionable, you would expect one of them to have said something to the media after the game, which would have been an irresistible hook for most journalists. Apparently neither of them thought anything of the hit.

If even the Predators aren’t lobbying for a suspension, it’s incredibly unlikely that one will occur and I doubt that the hit itself will even be brought to Brendan Shanahan’s attention.

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5 comments

  1. Andre
    April 16, 2013

    The replay also shows the ref having a very clear view of the play. Regardless of their apparent lack of calls during the late season, I think a hit to the head would have been called, had it occurred.

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  2. Lyg
    April 16, 2013

    The first thing I thought when I saw the replay was “He was hit on the shoulder, not the head.”

    (But it’s still hard to see what exactly happens to Hansen.)

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    • Daniel Wagner
      April 16, 2013

      Hansen apparently just had the wind knocked out of him. After the game, he confirmed that he didn’t have an arm injury.

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      • Brent
        April 16, 2013

        Unless he really did and he is lying. It has been known to happen. He did go down awkwardly, right on to his elbow which could have easily caused some soft tissue damage to his shoulder or collarbone. Lets hope not.

        It is like injury watch with the Canucks, who is going to go down next. Statistically Iron Man Henrik is due, but lets really, really hope THAT doesn’t happen.

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  3. EllynBleu
    April 16, 2013

    This article took me by surprise – *Edler hitting Ekholm in the head* and I wasn’t sure what to think. I agree that Edler is not known to intentionally target anyone. But I did check out the article by Hoag, and definitely Predator fans are thinking that the “entire Vancouver team devoted the night to playing dirty, lousy hockey. It was a disgrace to a great sport.”
    Did I miss something in the game? Yes, I saw hits on both sides. Yes, I saw players lips flapping but cannot lipread. Yes, I saw pushes/fights with both teams involved. Seriously … Canucks play dirty lousy hockey? Do other teams play a clean style of hockey? Or ….. am I looking at the Canucks through rosy-coloured /biased glasses?

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