Clarkson, Kessel face suspensions after line brawl

I’m a strict pacifist, but I have to admit I smirked a little when I saw that Bryan Flynn tapped out of his bout with Phil Kessel Sunday night after being cut. I smirked a little harder when Kessel skated by John Scott and speared him a little as Scott was engaged with David Clarkson. There wasn’t a lot defensible in the brawl the Maple Leafs and Sabres got into Sunday. I hadn’t seen the game up to that point, so there’s little context for what happened on the ice leading up to the event, but if the video linked here at Sportsnet is any indication, Scott wanted to get into it with Kessel and mayhem broke loose.

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The brawl will cost David Clarkson a ten-game suspension, as I’m sure we’re all aware by now. It’s an automatic rule that will be handed out on Monday, consistent with Rule 70.10 of the National Hockey League rulebook:

“The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation from either or both teams shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games of his team.”

Here’s the boxscore from the game. Ignore the Phil Kessel match penalty for now. It will only make you upset.

I can’t imagine Randy Carlyle would be too pleased with his new toy Clarkson after that, since it opens him to to supplemental discipline as well as a maximum $10,000 fine.

So that’s that. The fine is automatic and costly, since it leaves the Maple Leafs a winger short on opening day, and delays Clarkson’s Leafs debut to Friday, October 25 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It gets worse, per Jonas Siegel:

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Kessel too, could face additional discipline. According to the NHL rulebook, a player handed a match penalty “shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue”.

Clarkson’s contract also continues to count against the cap, squeezing the Leafs further and perhaps even damaging their chances to sign Cody Franson before the season begins.

That puts the team in a bit of a pickle, since it forces the team to use an injury call-up, and the team was already planning on being shorthanded at least to start the season. The cheapest difference between 21 skaters and 22 skaters is about $550K which is Trevor Smith’s salary. There was some talk last week of the Leafs not planning to open the season with a full 23-man roster. With the minor-league affiliate in town, 21 is manageable during homestands. With Clarkson’s suspension, the team will need 22 players on the roster for home games. If Kessel is suspended, it’s 23 to start the season.

That’s obviously a situation nobody was planning on getting into, a Black Swan if you will, a highly improbable, unpredictable event with severe ramifications.

Chris Johnston noted at Sportsnet that “those that live by the sword die by the sword”. As cliché as it is as a phrase, the Leafs can’t point the finger at John Scott exclusively. The rulebook is designed in a way to punish those that attempt to instigate fights against unwilling combatants. Carlyle is correct to point out that Clarkson made a mistake, and the suspension is bad enough without thinking of the salary cap considerations—the team will lose its prized free agency acquisition, who didn’t even do much other than stand around tugging at Scott’s jersey.

Wysh has the nitty gritty on all the details of the brawl, such as there being 211 penalty minutes handed out and that it was sparked by Jamie Devane fighting Corey Tropp just after Tropp had scored a goal. Carlyle’s attempt to play peacemaker by sending out Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Carter Ashton backfired horrifically, and the Leafs are going to have to pay the price in the opening week.

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  • Bishai in the Benches

    A Clarkson suspension (and potentially a Kessel suspension) might also increase the potential that some opportunist teams signs Franson to an offer sheet that TOR would be in tough to match.

  • Badger M

    Kind of an odd, negative tone for the article. That whole sequence of events was way too much fun for me to be upset, and while it’s only been pre-season, the Leafs have looked deep defensively. I’m definitely not as worried about Franson anymore.

    • Eh, it was kind of fun, but Clarkson’s and Kessel’s actions did not benefit the Leafs for the next week. Where you could have scrapped by with a 21-man roster, you need to have 22 or 23… a Kessel suspension costs the Leafs an extra $600K in cap space.

      If you check Siegel and Johnston’s articles, they have a similar tone. There aren’t a lot of positives to come from this.

      • Badger M

        When it comes down to it, the emotional part of hockey is why I love it so much. That fight scratched that itch.

        We can sit and discuss the negatives from a cap perspective for quite a while, and in all likelihood I would completely agree with you. It’s just a bit weird to see such a bizarre, thrilling sequence of events unfold live, being boiled down to pure analytics.

  • Badger M

    whoever wrote this article is a idiot, your supporting that kessel slashed and speared isead of being a man and fighting scott. kessel is pathetic just like the leafs nation. Go sens Go

  • Holy Mackinaw

    I see Nobody mentioned Two things, If Kessel werent such a Wimmp, this doesnt happen, and arent out two Protectors supposed to handle theses kind of situations?? We look stupid here, and during a Meaningless exhib game.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I agree with Cam that the Leafs earned nothing and pay a price for all this. But I doubt Kessel gets a suspension. There was no injury and he was clearly being pursued by a goon who was out to pummel. Still, Kessel didn’t distinguish himself and I am sure regrets swinging his thing. Let that be penalty enough, with a verbal reprimand.

    Who looks bad in all this are the coaches. Rolston was clearly out to stir up a mess after being embarrassed — not least because Tropp egged Devane into the first fight, and wound up injured as a result. Stupid! Rolston deserves a suspension.

    But Carlyle too looks bad. If one of his trademarks is no guff with his team, he really blew it, esp if Scott was yammering away during the break that he was going to toss his gloves. Send out Kessel to cool things down when the Leafs already have too many pugilists? Makes no sense. Rolston/Scott had clearly indicated they weren’t going to play by the “code.”

  • Badger M

    And mocking me on twitter for my comments here just lost you a reader. That was completely uncalled for and shows a lack of professionalism and integrity on your part.

    • We’re very sorry.

      We normally give parting readers a gift basket. Just send me your address.

      (In an effort to encourage you to return, we will print out every post we write and deliver by carrier pigeon to your house.)