THE LAW IS ON KADRI’S SIDE
Elbow tucked, Daniel Sedin crouching to shoot . . . the NHL breaks down why Leaf Nazem Kadri wasn’t suspended for hit — the Canucks aren’t buying it.
The NHL did not suspend the Leafs’ Nazem Kadri for his side-swiping hit on Daniel Sedin of the Canucks late in Saturday night’s game, but the decision reopened the debate as to just what is and what is not a head shot.
Kadri blindsided Sedin, whose helmet popped off, but that alone is not a reason for supplemental discipline, the league said. What matters is the main point of contact, and the NHL determined Kadri levelled Sedin with a full body check, not a targeted head shot.
“On this play we did not feel the head was the main point of contact,” said Damian Echevarrieta, vicepresident of the league’s department of player safety. “We felt it was shoulder/chest/head and therefore not an illegal check to the head.”
Sedin scored on the play and then left the game, while Kadri was ejected for charging. That punishment was enough for the NHL.
It’s a break for the Maple Leafs, who rely on Kadri to shut down the other team’s best centre while providing offence himself, with four goals in his last five games. The Leafs declined comment on the ruling, but the Canucks weren’t happy.
“We disagree with the ruling and are very disappointed,” said Vancouver GM Jim Benning. “However we must accept it and put it behind us.”
Echevarrieta posted a photograph on Twitter to back up the decision. It shows: Kadri’s skates on the ice at contact; Sedin a bit crouched on the follow through of his shot; Kadri’s elbow tight to his body and below Sedin’s head; Kadri’s shoulder at Sedin’s head level; contact from shoulder to waist.
The disciplinarian took a fair bit of heat on social media — mainly from upset Canucks fans, but also from those who say all checks to the head, not just illegal ones, should be banned from the game. He says that’s for the general managers who make the rules to discuss.
“Blindside hits are not illegal in themselves,” said Echevarrieta. “If the head isn’t the main point of contact, then it doesn’t matter if the hit was east-west, lateral, north-south or blindside.
“We have actually taken the term blindside out of the rule completely, in 2012, but even while it was in the rule it wasn’t illegal unless the head was also the main point of contact.”
Some pointed to a case last season in which Canucks forward Jake Virtanen was suspended two games for a hit on Roman Polak, then with the Sharks. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, no head shot involved, but the league determined it was late and predatory.
Kadri’s hit more resembles another incident from last year in which Carolina’s Brad Malone side-swiped Columbus’s Nick Foligno a split-second after a pass. That was deemed legal.
No suspension for Nazem Kadri after blindside check on Daniel Sedin, who scored on the play.