Ladies and gentlemen, start your conspiracy theories. Wait, how many games do the Toronto Maple Leafs have remaining this season? Oh, four. And how many games did Nazem Kadri get suspended? Hmm, four. Well, now, isn’t that convenient.
Kadri just happens to be the Maple Leafs best player of late. He also happens to be their hottest scorer, with eight points in his past six games, and their leading scorer with 45 points. (Although that point total definitely puts him in fastest-kid-at-fat-camp territory.) So having Kadri out of the lineup for the final four games of the regular season obviously enhances the Leafs chances of running the table with losses and catching the red-hot Edmonton Oilers for last place overall and the best chance of winning the draft lottery.
As well all know, the NHL’s head office, a branch of which is located right in the frickin’ Air Canada Centre, secretly pulls the levers of power to most benefit the Maple Leafs. That’s why they’ve been such a powerhouse all these years. That’s why the Oilers won last year’s draft lottery and the right to pick Center of the Hockey Universe™ native Connor McDavid instead of the Maple Leafs.
There will be those who are convinced the league gave Kadri such a lengthy suspension for his crosscheck to Luke Glendening of the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night in order to set the Leafs up for the best chance to win the lottery. It’s an absurd notion, of course. If the league really wanted to engineer a Maple Leafs tank, they’d mandate that coach Mike Babcock put Byron Froese on the second power play. Wait a second. He’s already doing that? Never mind.
As we said, it’s a ridiculous notion. But it’s one the NHL continues to give credence to on a silver platter with the wild inconsistencies in its rulings. To wit: three days before the Kadri incident, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith responded to getting twisted up and knocked down by Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild by viciously and wildly swinging his stick as he fell, striking Coyle right in the face. Keith, who is not a repeat offender by the NHL’s technical standards, but has been known to be a nasty piece of work with his stick, was suspended six games. To be fair, it was the equivalent of a seven-game suspension in the NHL’s eyes, since it generally applies a 2:1 ratio for playoff games and one of those games will be in the post-season.
So the Blackhawks' best defenseman, who becomes a cyborg in the playoffs and plays more minutes than he sits, gets a nice rest before the post-season and has to miss only one really meaningful game in this whole thing. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal in exchange for whacking a guy right in the fact with the base of your stick. And that’s only because it is. The Keith suspension was ridiculously light given the circumstances.
But you don't even have to use the Keith case as a point of comparison. Let's compare apples to apples here. Kadri, on a play that seemed no worse, and in fact might have been less harmful, than the crosscheck Brandon Dubinsky gave Sidney Crosby that earned him just a one-game suspension earlier in the season, gets four games. And that comes on the heels of him getting whacked twice for diving and fined for a throat slash gesture. It doesn’t seem fair, unless you’re a fan of the Oilers.
To be truthful, the Kadri play was really, really nasty. And it was done, again, by a player who seems to have a history of using his stick as a personal insurance policy. It seems excessive, until you watch it in slow motion and see how hell-bent Kadri was on getting his piece of flesh from Glendening and how hard he crosschecked him in the neck.
So it was actually a pretty fair ruling. But when you put it up against others, that’s where it seems to make no sense. Then again, that’s probably your mistake, you know, applying logic to the decisions that the Department of Player Safety makes. There is not conspiracy theory. Nothing to see here, folks. Just some good, old-fashioned inconsistency.