Ever since he became the director of player safety for the NHL, George Parros has pretty much walked the walk. Even though he owns a company called Violent Gentlemen that recently marketed ball caps that said, “Make Hockey Violent Again,” Parros has been surprisingly hard on hockey’s miscreants. So it would be natural for people to be applauding him for banning the NHL’s dirtiest player – and there is absolutely no doubt now that Radko Gudas enjoys that particular distinction – for 10 games for his latest act of violence.
Pardon me if I don’t join in the chorus. Parros made a statement to be sure, but he had the opportunity to make a much bigger and much more impactful one. It was right there, handed to him on a silver platter. Because it’s not as though Gudas has not proven himself utterly incapable of grasping the danger he’s doing to other players. Had Parros really, really wanted to get rid of this kind of rubbish, he would have banned Gudas for 40 games for his vicious slash to the head of Mathieu Perreault, then dared the NHL Players’ Association to come after him with an appeal. And in that appeal he could’ve told the union and the hockey world that he has to think of the safety of 700 players other than Gudas, players who take their careers into their hands every time the step on the same ice surface as the most dangerous man in hockey.
Radko Gudas is a menace. Full stop. He’s a menace to anyone who wears the opposite uniform. And given hockey’s penchant for retribution, he’s just as big a menace to his teammates. Because if Gudas is going to treat his opponents that way, it won’t be long before they realize the Flyers have some pretty good players in the likes of Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek who might find themselves in a vulnerable situation someday. And the Flyers will undoubtedly scream with blood-curdling volume if that ever happens.
When you watch a guy like Brendan Smith of the Rangers wipe out Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki and render him unconscious with a dirty, reckless, awful play that’s nowhere near the puck, as he did Sunday afternoon, you begin to wonder if these guys are ever going to get it. (Smith should be prepared to watch some games from the press box, too.) Perhaps they won’t. But one way to ensure they don’t is to allow guys like Radko Gudas to keep terrorizing and injuring opponents.
Now, missing 10 games and losing more than $400,000 in salary is no small penalty, but this latest suspension is the third one Gudas has incurred for absolutely reckless and dirty play in less than two years. In December 2015, he received a three-game ban for his forearm shiver to Mika Zibanejad off a faceoff, then was handed a six-game sentence in October 2016 for a hit along the boards on Austin Czarnik that would have been textbook interference if not for the fact that it was even more of a textbook headshot. A lot of players might have learned their lessons after that one. But consider this. One week before he drilled Czarnik, Gudas was tossed from a pre-season game for boarding. Then, just 16 days after the incident that got him suspended, Gudas was tossed again, this time for targeting the head of Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman.
So, you see, Parros already had a file the width of a Harry Potter novel with which to justify a more lengthy suspension. And if Parros needed any sort of cautionary tale on the perils of not dealing with idiotic behavior more severely, he needed to only look at Brendan Shanahan and how he dealt with Raffi Torres. Because you have to wonder whether Shanahan wonders what might’ve been had he been tougher on Torres.
When Shanahan, then the league’s director of player safety, suspended Torres for 25 games for his headshot on Marian Hossa in the playoffs in 2012, a pattern of behavior had already been established. Torres had already been suspended twice and fined once for similar types of plays, but Shanahan undoubtedly thought he would cure Torres of his reckless ways with such a lengthy sentence.
Wrong. In the playoffs the very next season, Torres drilled Jarrett Stoll in the head in Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs and was hit with what amounted to a 12-game suspension. (Torres was suspended for the rest of the series, which went seven games. It is generally accepted for suspension purposes that one playoff game is tantamount to two regular-season games.) Then 18 months later, Shanahan was forced to suspend Torres for 41 games for a late, illegal hit to the head of Jakob Silfverberg.
It’s interesting to note that after the playoff suspension, the Sharks signed Torres to a three-year deal. The Flyers signed Gudas to a four-year deal prior to last season. The way they figure it, having a guy who scares his opponents is good to have around, even if you have to miss him for five games here or there, or maybe even 10. But would the Flyers be as happy with Gudas if they had to do without him for a half a season or more? Probably not. Chances are, a 10-game suspension isn’t going to change anything for Radko Gudas, the Flyers or anybody else.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.