NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs’ right-winger Phil Kessel for the remainder of the preseason for slashing John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres in last Sunday’s altercation.
Here’s Shanahan explaining his ruling, via NHL.com:
Kessel received a match penalty for his role in last Sunday’s brawl, and was soon scheduled for a hearing with Shanahan. The hearing took place this afternoon around 4:45, and the NHL posted a statement with the video on their website at 5:30.
Kessel wasn’t expected to get much more than a couple of games for his stick-swinging display, but the Leafs will be very relieved the suspension won’t include any regular season games. Since Kessel has never faced supplementary discipline before, this suspension is really nothing more than a warning. Shanahan did highlight Kessel’s slashes on a couple Philadelphia Flyers from earlier in the preseason, so Kessel does have a little bit of history in acting in a similar manner.
Kessel has played with a little bit of a burr under his saddle during the preseason thus far. While it’s encouraging to see Kessel play with a little jam, he also needs to make sure he doesn’t let his temper get the best of him. Opposing agitators will no doubt be trying to knock Kessel off his game after Sunday’s events, so he’ll need to act smartly and not get caught up in those shenanigans.
With David Clarkson receiving a ten-game suspension for leaving the player’s bench to join the brawl during Sunday’s game, the Leafs really couldn’t afford to lose another top-six winger for the real games. In the end, Kessel gets little more than a slap on the wrist. With the decision made, hopefully this means the Leafs can move on to focus on the upcoming season and we can stop dwelling on Sunday’s events.