There was a “karma!” reaction to the injury suffered by Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri Saturday night.
But just because you don’t like Kadri’s history as an antagonist who crosses the line far too often, that doesn’t justify what Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane did to Kadri in Game 3 of the Western Conference final. Although Kadri was knocked out of the game, and the series, with a suspected hand injury, the injury could've been far worse, and that’s why Kane deserves a lengthy suspension from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Now, don’t take that to mean we expect a lengthy suspension from the DOPS. Given its past punishments, we’ve been conditioned to be disappointed by the length of suspensions. The league’s convoluted formula for punishment – playoff games are more meaningful, so if you commit a foul in the post-season, you should expect a one-to-two-game suspension, rather than the six-to-eight games you may get in the regular season – never falls on the side of what any reasonable person would call “harsh.”
And in this case, that’s a problem, as Kane’s wholly unnecessary cross-check to Kadri’s back, while he was very close to the end boards, could easily have resulted in a more catastrophic injury. We’re talking about a broken neck, with partial or full paralysis. Kadri was no danger to Kane, who leaped into the play before clearly targeting Kadri for a push forward.
There was no ejection of Kane on the play, which is not a complimentary comment on the abilities of veteran referees Wes McCauley and Eric Furlatt. The league announced Sunday Kane would have a hearing with the DOPS, but does anyone believe they’ll really drop the hammer on him, and send a powerful message around the league that this type of predatory play has no place in the game? This corner doesn’t, that’s for sure.
Love him or hate him, Kadri deserves the same protections as any other NHLer. He has the right to play knowing there isn’t some goof on the other side, who thinks nothing of taking his stick and using it as a bulldozer to possibly end his career and ability to walk.
If the DOPS had any teeth at all, it would keep Kane out of the playoffs for the rest of the series, and, if by some miracle, Edmonton turns around and beats the Avs to move on to the Stanley Cup Final, Kane should remain suspended until such time as Kadri’s injured hand heals. (Of course, if the Oilers win, Kadri won’t be playing, but he can still be a part of this process by working with an independent doctor to show he’s fully healthy.)
That would be the type of suspension that would make players like Kane – and Kadri, to be fair — sit up and take notice. A suspension that wound up being in double-digits in games played would not only hurt the suspended player in the pocketbook, but it would hurt his team. The stupid choice Kane made – at the start of Game 3, when Edmonton was leading the Avs 1-0 – took the wind out of the Oilers' sails, and gave the Avalanche a five-minute power play. The Avs failed to score on it, but Kane`s selfishness was a factor in Colorado taking over the momentum from that point on.
So let's sit back and see what the DOPS does with Kane's hit. This writer is fully prepared to shake his head and be disgusted and let down at the ruling, but he'd love to be proven wrong. Unfortunately, the league has conditioned true player safety accidents to be disappointed. This is the game the league (and NHL Player's Association) wants, and it’s a true travesty.