It doesn’t seem to matter what day, week or month it is right now. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas can’t seem to escape questionable hits, whether he lands on the right or wrong side of the law. Just five days ago, around this same time of night, I was writing about a dangerous but ultimately legal Gudas hit, for which Gudas was not suspended.
Another week, another game and another Gudas incident for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to tackle. This time, Gudas caught New Jersey Devils left winger Bobby Farnham with a blow to the head. Have a look:
Oh, boy. It was well behind the play, and Gudas had his head up, looking directly at Farnham right before impact. Gudas threw up his hands as if to say “who, me?” but this play will be awfully difficult to defend. Even if we believe Gudas’ defense, carelessness can be just as dangerous as malice.
That’s not to say the Gudas hit wasn’t malicious this time around, either. It doesn’t look good, and he appears to have violated Rule 48.1 this time with an illegal check to the head. Most damning about this particular collision is how darned avoidable it was. Farnham wasn’t involved in the play at all. That’s why this incident is much different from Gudas’ legal blow on Daniel Catenacci last week.
Gudas received a match penally for the play, and it wasn’t Gudas’ first ejection this season. Gudas wasn’t suspended the last two times he got tossed, both of which were in the past two weeks, by the way. It’s an important reminder that penalties and suspensions have no automatic correlation. The DOPS operates independently of the NHL’s officials and hockey operations department. It can suspend a play that wasn’t penalized, and it can let a penalized player walk free.
But Gudas likely will incur the DOPS’ wrath anyway, and Gudas is a repeat offender to boot, having earned a three-game ban for a hit to Mika Zibanejad’s head in December. With another infraction involving an illegal blow to the head, Gudas is showing he’s not learning to stop his unsafe behavior, and nothing is more important to the DOPS than changing specific and repeated unsafe behavior. The prior ban will extend Gudas’ sentence length if and only if the league deems the hit suspension worthy. The fact Farnham stayed in the game helps Gudas a little bit. Injuries to victims can extend suspension length if supplemental discipline is decided upon.
So while Gudas hasn’t always been as dirty as he’s made out to be, this is not the time to defend him. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt for half his dangerous hits this season, he’s amassed a bursting dossier of deplorable plays. It’s time for the DOPS to make an example of Gudas. Expect it to happen with a call for an in-person hearing and a significant ban.
Feb. 17 update: After watching more angles of the hit and consulting some expert sources around the league, I’m less convinced the contact was to Farnham’s head. It’s shoulder to shoulder. That makes the infraction interference, not rule 48.1. It gives Gudas a better chance of getting off, though the league may still want to come down on him for another predatory play. Stay tuned.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin