Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel won’t miss any time this regular season for slashing Buffalo tough guy John Scott.
The NHL has suspended Kessel for the final three games of the exhibition season, but the winger will be available when Toronto opens its 2013-14 season against Montreal next Tuesday. As a result of being suspended for only pre-season games, Kessel will also not lose any of his salary.
“He’s not going to be able to play anymore, so now he’s going to really practice hard,” coach Randy Carlyle said after Tuesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators. “So that’s an advantage.”
Kessel’s clean record and the fact that Scott was not injured determined the suspension, according to NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan, though in the video announcing the suspension, Shanahan pointed to Kessel’s slashes against Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Luke Schenn in a previous game as prior evidence of similar behaviour.
The incident came during Sunday’s ugly game between the Leafs and Sabres, longtime division rivals. After Buffalo’s Corey Tropp was injured in a fight with Toronto’s Jamie Devane, Scott attempted to go after Kessel on the next shift.
Kessel slashed Scott twice and gave him a spear and was ejected from the game.
“While we acknowledged that Kessel’s initial motivation was self-defence, he persists and swings his stick again even having escaped the immediate threat from Scott,” Shanahan said.
The incident sparked a bench-clearing brawl, which resulted in Leafs right-winger David Clarkson being suspended for 10 regular-season games for leaving the bench and Buffalo coach Ron Rolston being fined for “player selection and team conduct.”
Asked if he thought Kessel’s three-game, pre-season suspension was fair, Carlyle implied he was done trying to determine such things.
“I let the experts make those calls because I’ve been fined before for my criticism of what happens at the league, and my wife told me to shut my mouth,” he said.