Jets’ Wheeler on Trouba suspension: ‘It raises a lot of questions’

Jets captain Blake Wheeler wonders why Jacob Trouba received two-game suspension for his hit, where Evgeni Malkin didn’t even receive a phone call from the league.

• Jets take issue with Jacob Trouba’s suspension
• Similar hit by Evgeni Malkin went unpunished
• Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele question consistency of rulings

TORONTO – The Winnipeg Jets are angry and confused.

The club takes issue with Jacob Trouba’s suspension, especially in light of a similar hit laid on their captain, Blake Wheeler, by Evgeni Malkin just days prior. That one went unpunished by the NHL’s department of player safety.

"We feel internally like they got half of it right," Wheeler said Tuesday.

"Trouby’s hit is one of those they’re trying to get out of the game. He tries to step up and he’s a physical player and makes an unfortunate hit. It’s part of the game. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt, and you feel bad a guy goes down, and he has to pay the price for it."

Trouba was suspended two games without pay Monday for delivering an illegal check to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone Sunday evening and thus is unavailable for Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Stone left the game and has since been diagnosed with a neck injury (not a concussion). He will not play for the Senators Tuesday in New Jersey.

"I feel for the guy [Stone]. The way they’ve given out suspensions this year, I don’t think that was worthy of one," Jets top centre Mark Scheifele said.

"I don’t know what goes through in their mind as to what’s a suspension and what’s not. I’ve taken many big hits that haven’t got suspensions. Wheels took a big one. I know [Daniel] Sedin took one in Toronto, actually. [Nazem Kadri] didn’t get suspended."

Wheeler is still experiencing significant pain from the high hit Malkin laid on him Thursday but questions why the Penguins star escaped with a minor penalty for interference.

"Makes you wonder: If you sit out a couple days, 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 [after a hit from Tampa’s Anton Stralman]—guy doesn’t get a phone call. But they’re consistent on our end," said Wheeler.

The captain is ticked off, but he selects his words carefully and speaks calmly.

"From my perspective, you’d like to see the guy [Malkin] at least get a phone call. You don’t touch the puck. Leaves his feet. Hits you in the head. That’s the unfortunate part about it," Wheeler went on.

"Malkin’s a pretty good hockey player. 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. I never even saw him coming. He comes from the side of me. All I felt was my head snap back.

"Why is he hitting me at all? It has no impact on the play whatsoever.

"You can live with your guy getting two games as long as there’s consistency throughout. I know they have a lot of hits they’re looking at every night. You like to feel protected out there. With what’s transpired in the last week, it raises a lot of questions."

One of those questions: Do superstars receive preferential treatment when it comes to supplementary discipline?

"Are you calling me a superstar?" Wheeler quipped. A smile.

"You don’t want to go there. If I’m the one hitting Malkin… maybe. You’d like to think not. I know guys say that all the time: ‘It depends who it is.’ But you hope that’s not the case.

"If I’m him and I’m hitting a guy like that, it’s a cheap shot. And I know I’m doing that."

Wheeler is certain Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff had a conversation with the league regarding the Malkin hit — "He was adamant about it," Wheeler says — and yet there was still no phone hearing.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice was already dealing with a depleted blue line, with Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers sidelined by injury.

Citing "frugality" — i.e., a desire to not get fined — he pled the fifth when asked about Trouba’s suspension.

"My cheapness outweighs my disappointment," Maurice said. "We respectfully accept the decision while we disagree."

Maurice memorably exploded on the officials last February when Stralman took out Little for the season and went unpenalized. Maurice was ejected from that game, and Stralman avoided a hearing.

So, does Malkin’s non-suspension factor into his disappointment with Trouba’s punishment?

"I would suggest that any of the spinal fractures we’ve seen over the past year would weigh into my disappointment," Maurice said.