April 26, 2014, Marc-Edouard Vlasic left game five of the Stanley Cup playoffs after a Jarret Stoll hit, and the Sharks went on to lose that game and the next two against the Kings in a historic reverse sweep.
Vlasic is no Brian Campbell or flashy P.K. Subban, pulling spin-o-ramas and skate-arounds; he’s no Shea Weber bombing from the point or Jacob Trouba running around trying to plant guys into the fifth row; and for sure he’s no Brent Burns ripping wristers into the corners with deadly accuracy. What he is, though, is a top-notch d-man with outstanding vision, great skating, and hockey smarts to burn, with a +128 career +/- earned playing every game against the best players in the world.
Although the Norris trophy usually goes to offensive defensemen, when players and coaches talk about defensemen beyond that scope, Vlasic never goes unmentioned.
If there was ever any question about how highly he is regarded and valued, his selection to Canada’s World Cup and Olympic squads put that to rest, and his gold medals in both have validated that assessment.
Vlasic’s presence is obviously impressive enough, but it’s his absence that speaks the loudest. And it's absolutely no coincidence that the Sharks got bounced out of the playoffs by the Kings in 2014 without him. The understated defenseman’s recent bout of flu served up a small reminder of that implosion in 2014. It also underscored the importance of his healthy presence come the post-season, perhaps equaled only by the importance of Letang to the Penguins.
As I write this, Vlasic has just returned to the bench after being sent to the dressing room to get checked out for injury. Tentative sigh of relief.
But would it be the worst idea for the Sharks to use him sparingly down the stretch?