After an in-person hearing on Monday afternoon, the ruling is in and Nazem Kadri has been suspended by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for a minimum of three games and a maximum of five, ending his involvement in the Leafs vs. Bruins series.
Kadri is going to have to take some ownership for putting himself into this position in the first place, but the punishment of five playoff games is absolutely over the top.
First, it should be noted that Jake DeBrusk was not injured on the play and will dress for Game 3 tonight.
Player history has its role to play here, of course, but you also can’t ignore the actual context in which the offense took place. A fair share of the responsibility needs to fall on the officiating and DoPS side of this for what happens on the ice when a game is allowed to descend into chaos as Game 2 did in Boston.
After a certain point, when prison rules seem to be the order of the day, players cannot be expected to stand there and take it as their safety is put in jeopardy (and their teammates’ safety, with Patrick Marleau run into the stanchion with intent just before the Kadri incident) by attempts to injure — like the kneeing offense by DeBrusk on Kadri that went uncalled, in addition to the overall abuse (DeBrusk also took Kadri to the ice earlier in the game and jumped him, landing a couple of punches with no retaliation from Kadri… again, no call).
Sorry but anyone that says Kadri embellished or dived and that there was no kneeing needs to have their eyes checked. Brutal missed call. pic.twitter.com/VZDxuDAfhM
— DartGuy (@LeafsMaz20) April 14, 2019
Kadri’s retaliation crossed a line, but it’s the officials’ job to establish the line in the first place and they did not perform the basic duty of their job description which is to ensure the game is called according to the rules of player safety. Kadri looked — literally, directly — to the refs to do their jobs multiple times in that game before he took matters into his own hands.
The overall implications for the Leafs lineup are clear to see based on the practice lines:
Lines at Leafs morning skate
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 15, 2019
Now with control over the matchups at home, the Leafs, unfortunately, lose the ability to potentially slot Nylander next to Matthews at a time when the Matthews line is struggling to break through offensively. It also becomes difficult to see Nylander creating much of anything with those two wingers on his flanks.
There is seemingly a better alternative here than what Babcock is running in the Leafs top nine:
Hyman – Tavares – Marner
Moore – Matthews – Kapanen
Johnsson – Nylander – Brown
This would involve a demotion of Patrick Marleau (not an easy move optically, but it’s the playoffs here), the promotion of Trevor Moore, and moving Johnson down next to Nylander. Johnsson – Matthews – Kapanen, in a decent sample size together this season, does not seem to have the playmaking elements required to get Matthews the puck often enough in the right areas of the ice. Not that Moore significantly changes that dynamic, but this gives Nylander a little more to work with in Johnsson and it gives the Matthews line a bit of a different look as well (Moore’s not a bad little playmaker in his own right and has been a sparkplug in limited minutes).
If there is a tiny silver lining to all of this as the series heads to Toronto, I suppose it’s that Kadri got suspended with the series at 1-1 this time instead of 2-0 Bruins. Before anyone says Kadri let the organization and his teammates down here, though, acknowledge that it was the officials and the league that let Kadri down first.