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Was Alain Vigneault right to play the Nathan Horton card?

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

In his postgame comments following Sunday night's preseason loss versus the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault made it known that he was unhappy with an open-ice hit that Sharks' defenseman Douglas Murray put on Canucks' centre Maxim Lapierre.

Midway through the second period, Lapierre carried the puck across the Sharks' blue line, then passed off to winger Antoine Roussel -- at which point Murray stepped up and flattened him:

As you can see from the clip, Vigneault wasn't the only one upset with the hit. Lapierre and Roussel both went after Murray, with Roussel and Murray eventually dropping the gloves.

Unlike Roussel, who was simply sticking up for a teammate in the moment, Vigneault's problems with the hit were a little more complex. He felt that it was reminiscent of another, now-infamous open-ice hit. From Canucks.com:

"I look at Murray's hit on Lapierre tonight. If that is not exactly what Aaron Rome did last year -- it is, and it's probably .2 [or] .3 seconds later than what Romer did to Horton.

Vigneault is referring to Rome's hit on Nathan Horton in Game 3 of last June's Stanley Cup Final. Horton missed the rest of the series with a concussion. Rome missed the rest of the series with a suspension, the longest in Stanley Cup Final history.

With Vancouver already missing Dan Hamhuis, the stiff suspension to Rome caused all sorts of problems with Vancouver's defensive pairings, which is likely why Vigneault is still sore about it.

Does he have a point? Are these hits as similar as Vigneault claims?

Let's take a look at Rome's hit on Horton one more time:

Ugh. Horton's been cleared to play for months, and this hit still makes me cringe. It's downright terrifying watching Horton struggling like that.

Anyhow, the hits do bear some similarities. Both are open-ice hits just as the target steps across the blueline, and I would argue that both are about a second late. I have my doubts as to whether Murray's is indeed 0.2 or 0.3 seconds later, as Vigneault claims (or 2.3 seconds later, as the Vancouver Province has misquoted).

For all the similarities between the hits, however, the difference is this: about four inches.

That's the space between the head, Rome's initial point of contact with Horton, and the chest, where Murray connects with Lapierre. As a result, Horton is left convulsing on the ice with brain trauma, and Lapierre pops right back up.

That's not to say that Rome is some sort of headhunter. At the speed the game is played now, it's dangerously possible to miscalculate the point of contact. Rome did, but, lucky for Lapierre, Murray didn't.

That's a pretty big difference.

So what does Sharks' GM Doug Wilson think of Alain Vigneault's comments? When asked about Vigneault's decision to compare the two hits, he said, "It's not even worthy of a response."

What do you guys think?

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