Nazem Kadri will attend a hearing with league discipline czar Brendan Shanahan this afternoon. The hearing is reportedly about the collision with goaltender Niklas Backstrom. It’s not clear as of yet if this indicates the League has reviewed Kadri’s hit on Mikael Granlund and found no supplemental discipline is needed.
When the League looks back at the tape, I think, or hope, they will find that the Granlund hit looked and sounded worse in real time than it was when scrutinizing the slow motion replay. The match penalty that saw the Leafs serve a five-minute penalty, and Kadri being ejected for the remainder of the game, seemed like overkill on its own. It was a reputation call, and it certainly did look bad; the refs had already been onto Kadri from the Backstrom incident, Kadri exploded upward into his hit, his stick smacked the glass and created a loud noise, Granlund’s head jerked back, and the crowd reacted loudly. A closer inspection suggests to me he kept his elbow down, his feet on the ice, and contacted, with his shoulder, the high chest area on Granlund. It seems the refs got sucked into a match penalty call that probably should have been a two-minute boarding call if anything.
League did look at Kadri on Granlund. Viewed primarily as a full body hit. Head was not PPoC. Penalty on ice fit the crime.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) November 14, 2013
Back to the Backstrom collision.
The title of this piece about the collision over at NBC Sports was, “is the Kadri hit similar to the Tootoo hit on Miller,” and it is. But it is also similar to Gionta’s elbow to Reimer’s head, and to countless other player-goalie collisions that were seemingly dismissed as unfortunate hockey plays. What’s the difference in Tootoo’s case that earned him the two-game suspension? It was a high profile incident after Miller had been ran by Lucic coming out of his crease a month earlier, no suspension was handed down, and the Sabres organization was irate. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons John Scott now exists in the league. So, we’re already seeing how inconsistent discipline decisions can snowball into more problems.
In this case, it’s a high-profile matter because Kadri is a Leaf; I’ll never be convinced otherwise. He’s in the Toronto spotlight. Twitter lit up, and reporters and the TSN panel were talking suspension within moments of it happening with little time to reflect on league discipline precedents or where it might actually fit in the big picture when it comes to these types of incidents. It’s not that I’m calling this an anti-Leaf conspiracy agenda on the part of the League, it’s the simple point that the actions of Leaf players receive more attention. The League’s job is to review everything, but to pretend like outside pressures and public perception don’t influence their decision making is completely naive.
Tootoo was ruled to have had minimal assistance from a defender in crashing into Miller, and got two games for the play. Kadri did not receive any assistance, either, and in relative terms there wasn’t even a defender nearby (as far as goalmouth plays go). One difference between the two is that Tootoo is driving the net with the puck while Kadri was wandering through the crease area looking to find a rebound or tip Lupul’s shot.
Kadri is playing recklessly here; he’s going to the net, which is what he’s always been told to do, but he’s just lost his place relative to the goaltender. He needs to be more aware of his surroundings, without a doubt. From there, he begins contact Backstrom, who was down on his knees and sliding out to the right of his goal crease to make the save on Lupul’s shot. Kadri’s arm makes contact with Backstrom’s head, and Kadri’s reaction is to raise his arms up to try to avoid what contact he can even though it’s too late; this kind of creates the optics of him extending his forearm through Backstrom’s head.
In principle, I’m fine if the League wants to start handing down a game or two for these type of reckless collisions in order to protect its goaltenders. It’s the inconsistency of the discipline that would upset me. I hated losing James Remier for months thanks to one of these collisions, and I would understand if the League wanted to send a message about playing recklessly around the net. But Reimer’s October, 2011 collision with Brian Gionta yielded no supplemental disciplinary action from the league. While it was different circumstances with Miller well out of his crease, neither did Lucic’s original collision with Miller. Why is it when Kadri does it is the hockey world acting like a suspension is automatically in store? If the League is going to make an example out of Kadri, I hope it means we’ll see consistency when it comes to this type of hit going forward, but what are the chances of that?