OHL sanctions against Flint help, but don’t completely clear up a murky situation

Ken Campbell
Flint Firebirds  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Faced with the possibility of a mass revolt from teenaged prospects against the Flint Firebirds, Ontario League commissioner David Branch had no choice but to take decisive and punitive action against Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen three days before the league’s annual draft.

Branch announced Wednesday night the league has suspended Nilsen for five years – with an opportunity to apply for reinstatement in three years – revoked the third overall pick in the draft and fined the team $250,000 for violations, “contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.” If Nilsen is found to violate the order by getting involved with the team in any way, the league reserves the right to force him to sell the team.

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Kadri suspension will please Tank Nation, but makes no sense compared to others

Nazem Kadri on Jimmy Howard (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

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Suspend him or not: Leafs’ Kadri gets hearing for cross-checking Red Wings’ Glendening

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 24: Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs carries the puck up ice against the Anaheim Ducks during game action on March 24, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI  via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri looked ornery when he got to his feet after being knocked down by Detroit Red Wings’ Luke Glendening. His actions that followed have him in trouble with the NHL.

The league announced Kadri has a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday for cross-checking Glendening in the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 victory by Detroit. The incident began with Kadri and the Red Wings center battling to the left of the Toronto net. Glendening swiped at Kadri with him crouched over, knocking the Leaf player to the ice. As Glendening skated toward the Toronto net, the now helmet-less Kadri gathered himself, made a bee line to his opponent and cross-checked him in the side of the head.

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NHL suspends Duncan Keith six games – and dispels the “star treatment” myth

Matt Larkin
Duncan Keith (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Duncan Keith verdict is in. The NHL Department of Player Safety has suspended the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman six games, including the first game of the playoffs, for his retaliatory high stick on Minnesota right winger Charlie Coyle March 29. The league’s video justifying the decision:

New footage surfaced Friday depicting the play leading up to Keith’s stick swing. Coyle got his stick up high on Keith. But let’s not get bogged down here. For one, as director of player safety Patrick Burke says in the DOPS’ explanatory video, Coyle’s contact with Keith was the result of a battle for the puck. The contact was incidental. Keith, on the other hand, has full control of his stick, and that’s what establishes the intent. Even if we were to accept Coyle as partially guilty, the more vicious of the two acts was punished.

The Keith ban sent a strong message that the NHL will not give star players preferential treatment. Illegal is illegal. Not that Keith’s suspension should’ve been necessary to dispel the myth of “star favoritism” or even “Chicago favoritism” for that matter. Here’s a cross section of 2015-16’s suspensions to date, working backward, only including those dished out by the Department of Player Safety:

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Why the OHL came down so hard on Max Jones

Ken Campbell
Max Jones (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The consensus among scouts is that the 12-game suspension given to Max Jones of the London Knights for his headshot in the playoffs isn’t going to move the needle one way or the other when it comes to his draft status. Most NHL teams and pundits have him going in the top of the first round, probably somewhere outside the top 10, and that’s where he’ll stay.

The Ontario League announced Friday afternoon that Jones has been suspended for 12 games for his blind-side hit on Justin Brack of the Owen Sound Attack in Game 4 of their playoff series Wednesday night. It’s an enormous, earth-shattering sentence to be sure, depriving the Knights of the kind of player who can have an enormous impact on the playoffs – a big and gritty two-way player who can contribute offense.

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Watch vicious blindside hit that saw OHL player ejected from playoff game

Jared Clinton
Max Jones hits Justin Brack (via YouTube/Torontomapleleafs951)

According to just about every single draft ranking available, London Knights winger Max Jones is set to become a first-round selection at the upcoming draft. He may have hurt his stock Wednesday, though, when he threw a blindside hit to the head of Owen Sound’s Justin Brack and was kicked out of an opening-round playoff contest.

Jones’ vicious hit came midway through the contest with the Knights and Attack tied at two. Jones had attempted to enter the Owen Sound zone one-on-one, but the puck was stick checked away and Jones continued on behind the Attack net as a shot was fired on goal by Knights winger J.J. Piccinich. The shot was blocked on its way in and ended up bouncing out into the feet of Brack.

As Brack looked down to locate the puck, Jones approached him from the right, maintained his speed from the drive around the Attack goal, lowered his body and drove up and into Brack: Read more

Suspend them or not: Dustin Byfuglien (not) and Jason Chimera (fine)

Dustin Byfuglien  (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The most convincing argument that Dustin Byfuglien’s hit on Mark Stone Wednesday night was clean, ironically might have come in the fact that Stone was injured on the play.

Stone, the Ottawa Senators right winger who is in the midst of a second straight 60-point season, collided in the unscheduled freight train known as Winnipeg Jets defenseman Byfuglien in the second period of the Senators win in Manitoba. The good news was the victory by the Senators managed to keep the slim playoff hopes of the only Canadian team still in the playoff hunt alive. The bad news was Stone left the game with a chest contusion after being steamrolled by Byfuglien.

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Suspend him or not: Duncan Keith bloodies Charlie Coyle with vicious slash

Jared Clinton
Duncan Keith and Charlie Coyle (via NHL/Streamable)

With three consecutive meetings between the Blackhawks and Wild in the post-season, tensions between the two teams are bound to be high when the two teams meet, but Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith took his aggression too far Tuesday night.

Midway through the first period, Keith was attempting to hold the puck in the Minnesota zone when he was hit by Wild winger Charlie Coyle. The contact from Coyle knocked Keith onto his back, and the Blackhawks blueliner took exception. Laying on his back, Keith swung his stick up at Coyle, catching him in the face and drawing blood: Read more