After much anticipation, the NHL Department of Player Safety has finally made their decision on Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. Kadri, who had a hearing today regarding his charge and boarding of the Boston Bruins’ Tommy Wingels last night, learned his fate this evening. Kadri will be suspended for the next three games of the Leafs’ first-round series against the Bruins. Player Safety explained their decision as such (video):
“Kadri sees Wingels has fallen, and with sufficient time to adjust his course or minimize the force, instead drives recklessly into the defenseless Wingels, causing his head to dangerously impact the boards. This is boarding. It is important to note that Kadri is in control of this hit at all times… Instead of avoiding or minimizing this hit, Kadri drives his hip into Wingels’ upper body”.
What Player Safety doesn’t address is the context that also leads one to believe that the hit was intentional. Kadri had just served a minor penalty for boarding Wingels less than four minutes earlier and, just before the hit in question, Sean Kuraly had scored for Boston, giving the Bruins a commanding 4-1 lead late in Game One. Kadri has a history of losing his cool, as this is his fourth career suspension – all of which have come from dirty hits to the head area – another fact that Player Safety definitely took into consideration in issuing this lengthy ban. Also likely taken into account is the fact that Wingels did not return to the game last night and did not practice today (and now the Leafs will likely have to deal with Ryan Donato in Game Two and beyond). Down in the series, the Leafs will be forced to bounce back from a convincing four-goal loss without the services of a veteran top-six forward for three more games. Head coach Mike Babcock and Kadri’s Toronto teammates can’t be happy about what was honestly a thoughtless, selfish decision by Kadri in the team’s playoff debut. Kadri could live to regret it, especially if he’s already played his final game of the season.
Kadri’s suspension is already the second handed down by Player Safety this postseason and just two days into the action. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty will serve his one-game suspension tonight for a high, dangerous hit to the Vegas Golden Knights’ William Carrier on Wednesday. Yet, some are upset that the number of suspensions is not even higher. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals traded cheap shots last night, with the Jackets’ Josh Anderson injuring Michal Kempny and the Caps’ Tom Wilson injuring Alexander Wennberg, but neither player received any additional punishment. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen also had a questionable check on Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie that didn’t draw any league scrutiny. As always, the playoffs take the physicality to the next level, but this year has seen heavy hitting early and often. At least through two suspensions in two days, Player Safety has shown that they aren’t afraid to hit players with postseason suspensions.