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.
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:
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.