Nazem Kadri's suspension may be blessing for Leafs
Years from now, it could be viewed as the incident that allowed the Maple Leafs to draft Auston Matthews.
For now though, it's just the suspension that put a premature end to Nazem Kadri's season.
The edgy forward was put into drydock on Monday as a result of crosschecking Red Wings center Luke Glendening in the head on Saturday night. The four-gamer means the Leafs, currently tied with Edmonton in last place in the league standings with 67 points, will be without their top scorer for the rest of the season.
Kadri will finish with 45 points. If he remains on top, it will be the worst performance by Toronto's leading scorer since George Armstrong topped the charts with 44 points back in 1956-57. That statistic alone speaks volumes about the season the Leafs are suffering through, and how desperately they need to improve their chances of landing the top pick in the draft lottery by finishing dead last.
If Kadri's absence ends up shutting down Toronto's 28th-ranked offense, this could be the best thing that could have happened for the Leafs ... and bad news for the Oilers, Canucks, Blue Jackets and other teams hoping for a better shot at the top prospect.
As for the suspension, it's a perfectly rational response by the Department of Player Safety. Kadri is a repeat offender (he also was suspended four games last March for an illegal check on Edmonton's Matt Fraser), and there wasn't a lot of room for interpretation on the hit (although coach Mike Babcock confusingly tried to defend it as being intended for Glendening's arm, a target he suggested is "allowed" for crosschecking.) It's a fair result.
Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they suspended Chicago's Duncan Keith last week for just six games after a much more flagrant stick-to-the-head violation. A difference of just two games—even when one of them is a playoff contest—is tough to defend. But give the DOPS credit for getting this one right.
This is the third time Kadri has run afoul of the league's disciplinarians in a span of two months. He was fined $5,000 for a throat-slash gesture toward Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano in February. Just last week he was cited for his third instance of diving/embellishment and fined $5,000 by the league.
Kadri is headed for restricted free agency this summer. If he's going to make up the nearly $400,000 he's lost to fines over his career, he might be looking for a big raise on his current $4.1 million salary.