Radko Gudas has done it again. The NHL’s ersatz Teflon Don once again avoids suspension for a questionable hit.
Gudas’s latest head-hunting expedition came in Monday’s preseason game against the New York Rangers. Forward Jimmy Vesey brought the puck into the zone along the boards. As Gudas lined him up for a check along the class, Vesey pivoted. Gudas continued on course, driving Vesey’s head into the glass. Though he was shaken up on the play, Vesey returned to the game, eventually scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period.
Gudas was given a match penalty for an illegal check to the head by referees Francois St. Laurent and Peter MacDougall. he also picked up an additional five for fighting New York’s Dylan McIlrath, bringing his nightly total to 22 penalty minutes in just 6:27 of ice time.
Why Gudas avoided supplementary discipline, as per Player Safety: “Gudas does not have time to adjust or avoid the hit once Vesey turns.”
— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) October 4, 2016
“I thought I had a little more time than that,” Vesey said, via the New York Post. “I didn’t expect that big of a hit. Next thing I knew, I was face-first into the glass. I wasn’t expecting it. Got caught off guard a little bit.”
Gudas acknowledged his culpability on the play, though he acknowledged that Vesey’s last-second turn contributed to the dangerous collision.
“We both made the wrong decision,” Gudas said via CSN Philly. “I’m glad he is all right. That’s hockey … It’s tough to take it back. It happened really fast. I’m committed to the hit and even when he is turning, it’s tough to stop. I thought he saw me. Nothing I can do about it now. Hopefully, it won’t happen again.”
New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t so optimistic.
“I’ve seen that hit many times before from that player,” said Vigneault. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Per the NHL rule book:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted. In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:
(i) Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.
(ii) Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.
(iii) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way significantly contributed to the head contact.
Vesey put himself in a tough spot by turning just prior to contact. In their Player Safety video regarding contact along the boards, the NHL addresses that situation:
Despite Vesey’s change in body position, this hit was always going to be a dangerous one. Gudas didn’t appear to pull up or attempt to change course. That train was not veering off the tracks. Vesey’s fortunate to have avoided injury. Gudas is equally fortunate to have avoided supplemental discipline.
Gudas has been suspended just once in his five-year NHL career. The blueliner sat for three games for an illegal hit to the head of Mika Zibanejad, then with the Ottawa Senators. He’s also avoided suspension for dangerous hits to Buffalo’s David Catenacci, New Jersey’s Bobby Farnham, Montreal’s Lucas Lessio, and – when he was with the Lightning – Scotty Upshall. All four of those plays saw Gudas penalized – either a major or a match penalty – but none were deemed to justify a suspension. He also laid out the Coyotes’ Shane Doan and the Rangers’ Viktor Stalberg with unpenalized hits to the head last season.
“I wouldn’t say Gudie’s a head-hunter,” Flyer Jake Voracek said earlier this year. “He’s just a wrecking ball. He goes through the body. You don’t see him jump. You don’t see him blindside guys.”
With suspensions to Montreal’s Andrew Shaw and Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson handed out already this preseason, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety seemed to be sending messages that illegal, dangerous play will not be tolerated. Well, at least until now.
Unlike Gudas delivering that hit, on this one Player Safety missed.