There is finally a concrete date for decision-making in regards to a developing story over the past two days. After yet another questionable dangerous play from Radko Gudas on Thursday night, the big Philadelphia Flyers defenseman has been on track for his third career suspension and second already this season. The NHL Department of Player Safety had offered Gudas an in-person hearing, however an announcement was made late last night that he has waived this right and has instead opted for a phone hearing which will take place Sunday.
The significance of the choices on both sides are two-fold. Player Safety may only suspend a player for five or more games following an in-person hearing, or at least if such a hearing is offered. While Gudas has waived his right to an in-person hearing, that does not change the fact that he may miss significant time due to his latest transgression. If history is an indicator, an offer for an in-person hearing tends to simply be a procedural way of informing a player that a long suspension is on its way. However, Gudas himself is essentially tacking on an extra game to his absence. By waiving his in-person hearing for the alternative, a phone hearing Sunday, he is not allowed to play for the Flyers until that phone hearing has been completed. That means that Gudas will be ineligible to play in Philly’s matinee match-up against the Calgary Flames tonight, a game in which the Flyers are looking to stay above .500.
Will this latest punishment for Gudas finally get through to him? It may be difficult for a player whose career has been built on physicality to suddenly clean up his act. Since the notorious checker entered the league in 2012-13, he is eighth overall in hits and second among defenseman with 1097. Per game, his 3.8 hits puts him in a class with only Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Mark Borowiecki. Yet, only Martin has more penalty minutes in that time span than Gudas’ 12th-ranked 490 and Martin’s total includes 54 fighting majors – which do not leave the team short-handed – to only 94 minors, while Gudas is much more minor-heavy: 129 to 18. For all intents and purposes, Gudas is called for penalties more often than any of the other top hitters in the NHL in his career, and that’s not even counting game misconducts. Without much of an offensive game, it is clear that Gudas owes much of his $3.5MM salary to his physicality, but he is wandering down a dangerous road if he thinks he can continue to be the reckless checker he is now and remain well-paid or even employed in the NHL.