You can bet that the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be seeing Nazem Kadri for a few games.
It’s odd that Kadri’s ludicrous elbow to the head of Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom has so far not been met with quite the furore that followed Milan Lucic’s hit on Ryan Miller last season. Kadri, driving to the net from the left hand corner, appeared to zero-in on Backstrom’s head and followed through with enough force deck the goaltender right on his back.
As there was in Buffalo, there may be an inquiry in the Minnesota dressing room as to the weak response from the Wild players. Kadri was merely given a gentle shove in the back of the head and otherwise got away scott-free. He didn’t manage to last the whole game though, as he was later ejected for a hit to the head on forward Mikael Granland.
Goodness knows what possessed Kadri to start flying around like a Raffi Torres understudy. Perhaps he was trying to make up for his so far underwhelming campaign on the scoresheet by ruffling some feathers. Perhaps coach Randy Carlyle instructed him to stop clowning around at centre ice and head for the dirty areas, and that message was interpreted as ‘show zero respect for the brains of the opposing players and lamp the most vulnerable of them straight in the head, preferably so the back of his skull bounces off the ice’.
Whatever Kadri’s excuses he should be embarrassed and ashamed, as I was to watch that as a Leafs fan. It’s enough to make me take leave of my senses by agreeing with Don Cherry that some goon bruiser should have gone out there and taught him a little respect.
The hit that finally got an apparently braindead-for-the-evening Kadri ejected was also ugly, raising his shoulder to catch Granlund as the wild forward stood stationary with his back to the boards.
Kadri is undoubtedly talented, with velvet-soft hands, great footspeed and creative thinking. That, however, was ludicrous. Let’s hope that the NHL will give Kadri enough of a suspension to knock some sense into him.
It is also time, surely, for the NHL to consider upping their game when it comes to suspensions. Patrick Kaleta’s banishment to waivers by the Buffalo Sabres was a welcome piece of actual guts after a paltry 10 game suspension from the NHL. 10 games for a player who the words ‘repeat offender’ don’t even begin to do justice? Give me a break.
Yes, competition is fierce, yes it’s a physical game and yes, these guys are under pressure to make an impact, perform and make the most of their talent and opportunity at the highest level of professional hockey. But if the Department of Player Safety really wants to protect players from weaponised hits, Kaleta is gone for 25 games and Kadri is gone for 5.
Time to get tough with these guys. It’s the only way they’ll learn.
Chris is a contributing writer on the Toronto Maple Leafs for THW. From Oxford, England, he writes mainly about hockey and soccer, where he is looking to turn his hobby of sportswriting into a career.