The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without one of their most physical players for the rest of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins. The Department of Player Safety announced today that forward Nazem Kadri has been given a suspension of up to five games for his cross-check on Jake DeBrusk in Saturday night’s game. Kadri was responding to a hit on Patrick Marleau, and hit DeBrusk right in the face with his stick. Instead of giving the Maple Leafs forward a determined number of games, the league decided it was best to keep him out for the remainder of the series instead. As the accompanying video explains:
This is not a hockey play. Instead, this is a player retaliating against an opponent by using his stick as a weapon to make forceful and direct head contact. While we understand that Kadri took offense to DeBrusk’s hit against Marleau, players are simply not permitted to flagrantly violate league playing rules because they feel that retribution is justified. It is also important to note that Kadri has an extensive disciplinary track record that must be considered when issuing supplemental discipline.
This will be Kadri’s fifth suspension and one that is eerily similar to his last. Almost exactly a year ago the Maple Leafs center was suspended for a check on Boston’s Tommy Wingels in their first round series and was given a three-game ban. Toronto would eventually lose that series in seven games and many consider Kadri’s absence a contributing—if not ultimately determining—factor.
Though the league has not handed out many suspensions that can vary in length before, this is not entirely without precedent. In 2013, San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended for the rest of his series against the Los Angeles Kings after a hit to the head of Jarret Stoll. Torres similarly had a long history of discipline, which included at that point a 21-game suspension (reduced from the original 25) for another head shot. Torres would eventually receive an even longer suspension in 2015 when he was banned for half a season.
While Kadri doesn’t have quite the reputation that Torres built over his playing career, that is the kind of discipline he’ll have to be wary of in the future. The Department of Player Safety has been clear that they will not tolerate repeat offenders especially when incidents are similar in nature. In fact, the Kadri video today brought up a similar cross-checking incident from his past when he struck Luke Glendening in the face with his stick in retaliation. His discipline will only increase unless he finds a way to stop these retaliatory incidents from occurring.