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‘…the offender and not the offense’- Kadri Speaks to CHN on officiating and controversial suspension

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Russel Lansford/Icon Sportswire

Six and a half minutes had been played in the third period, and the Colorado Avalanche was protecting a 3-1 lead in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series when St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, a dangerous offensive threat, had some time and space with the puck coming down the middle of the Avs’ zone. Faulk was gearing up for a wrist shot when he dipped his head and body down some, to gain better leverage on the shot toward goalie Philipp Grubauer. Nazem Kadri then did what they teach you to do in hockey when an opponent comes into the slot for a dangerous scoring chance: Hit him. Take him off the puck.

So, hit Faulk, Kadri did. Coming from right to left, Kadri kept his elbows in and had his left anchor leg planted firmly on the ice when he delivered a shoulder hit to Faulk. The hit had its desired effect, at least at first. Faulk got a weak shot off on Grubauer, who made an easy save. Two-goal, third-period playoff game lead preserved.

The problem: Kadri’s right shoulder made primary contact with the left side of Faulk’s head. It was an inadvertent, unintentional hit to the head. Kadri meant to just give him a good, hard hit to the body and take the scoring chance away. But when Faulk went down and didn’t get up, Kadri knew he was in some trouble. From the penalty box, he kept looking up at the JumboTron, wanting to see the hit on replay.

When he saw it, he immediately knew he’d probably be suspended for it. But not in his worst, darkest fears did he ever expect the sentence that was handed down from the NHL Department of Player Safety: Eight games. Eight playoff games. They say one playoff game suspension is equal to two, maybe three, regular-season games.

With a “rap sheet” that included two previous playoff suspensions – but with nothing in the past two years, which led Kadri and others with the Avalanche to believe, by the NHL’s own definition of the term, that he would not be considered a “repeat offender” – the severity of the punishment came as a shock to Kadri that he still has a hard time trying to understand.

“There were other instances throughout the playoffs that were very questionable, where the hits were worse than mine, but weren’t even suspendable. It did feel like I was made to be a poster boy, to send a message for the accountability aspect, which I didn’t appreciate much,” Kadri told Colorado Hockey Now on Tuesday, in his first interview since the May 19 incident.

At first, it seemed like the Avalanche might survive the medium-term loss of Kadri. They won the next two games of the series to close out St. Louis, then won the first two games of their next series, against Vegas. But then the losses started. While he was allowed to practice with the team, Kadri couldn’t play in the games. When he got halfway through the suspension, with a 4-0 Avs record in his absence, the 30-year-old, second-line center from London, Ontario, thought for sure he’d still be a player in the postseason, that his and the Avs’ story would ultimately have a happy ending.

As the Avs lost the final four games of the second round to Vegas, it became too unbearable for Kadri to even watch.

“There were a couple of sleepless nights,” Kadri said. “I knew I could have been the X-factor in that series. It was a very strenuous time.”

Kadri appealed the suspension, first to commissioner Gary Bettman, then to a neutral arbitrator, Shyam Das, who had a reputation for leniency toward players in such situations. In his work across various leagues, Das had reduced lengthy suspensions to Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, and also to notorious, NHL repeat-offender Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals.

While it wasn’t a surprise to the Kadri camp when Bettman upheld the suspension, there was great optimism that Das would shave off a game or two when the case came into his purview. But on the afternoon of Game 5 came the bad news: Das upheld the suspension as well. The earliest Kadri could come back would be a potential Game 7 against the Golden Knights. But the series never got that far.

Again, Kadri acknowledges that, while the hit to the head was unintentional, he would/could have accepted a suspension. But eight games? That’s the part he still can’t figure out – especially when other “head shots” in the playoffs somehow escaped suspension from DoPS director George Parros.

Case in point: On May 21, Washington’s Dimitri Orlov was given nothing for this hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (which resulted in an injury that prevented Miller from playing the rest of the postseason):

Bonus Voucher!

Where was the “accountability” for that hit, Kadri’s team argued with Bettman and, later, Das? And, what constituted “repeat offender” status? The exact wording of the “repeat offender” clause in the collective bargaining agreement was/is poorly worded and confusing to everyone. Technically, repeat offenders don’t have to worry as much in regard to the monetary fines they might receive for offenses outside a two-year window. But when it comes to the length of suspensions, previous offenses can always be taken into account. Or, something like that.

“We tried to,” when Kadri is asked if he understood what the repeat-offender rules were, “but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. We thought we had a great case. I know those guys have a difficult job. I really do. It’s something I really wouldn’t want in my hands. But, at the end of the day, I feel like, if that’s their job description, there could be some type of consistency. I feel like that might be lacking in some areas. Sometimes, it feels like it’s more the offender and not the offense. I get it, I understand it’s a tough job. But for me to get the equivalent of a 20-game suspension in the regular season, for trying to make a responsible defensive play…?”

“It was not an emotional, hot-headed play,” Kadri said. “Nothing had happened prior. I was trying to make a responsible defensive play. Had I not laid the body and he maybe had got a shot off and got past me and they’d gotten a rebound, then I’d be the guy to blame. So, the only reason why it was forceful is because he’s walking down the slot in a playoff game, and I had to show some urgency in getting over there and to try and prevent him from getting a scoring chance. It was one of those plays where it happened quick. I was just trying to make a responsible defensive play. Of course, I’m not trying to hurt anybody there and put myself out too.”

Kadri had, and still has, the unwavering support of his Avalanche teammates, coaches and management in the wake of the suspension. Coach Jared Bednar believed it was, at most, a 1-3 game suspension. So did GM Joe Sakic, who reportedly was very vocal in his “courtroom defense” of Kadri.

By all accounts, Kadri has been a well-liked and respected member of the Avs’ dressing room since coming over in trade from Toronto. Teammates, younger and older, praised his willingness to help in any way he could, on and off the ice. Unknown to most people, Kadri is a big giver to charitable causes, locally and nationally. You’d never know it, from hanging out with him in the room, that Kadri had any kind of “temper/conduct” problem, as he is always calm and collected with anyone who comes into his transom.

That said, Kadri admits that he can be an “emotional” player on the ice at times. It’s been to his misfortune that sometimes his emotions have translated into hard hits that have injured opponents, in the playoffs. The irony, to that point with the Avs and the May 19 game? Kadri had been a veritable choir boy with his play.

That’s the way he expects it to go with the Avs for this coming season, one in which Kadri is counting the days for when it starts. To say he can’t wait to get to training camp, to start putting this all behind him and getting Avs fans back on his side, would be an understatement.

Kadri is coming up on the final year of a contract that carries a $4.5 million cap hit. He also has a no-trade, no-movement clause, so – contrary to some published reports – he can’t be exposed to Seattle in the July 21 expansion draft unless he waives it. It didn’t sound, on Tuesday, that Kadri had any intention of waiving his NMC to play for an expansion team.

“I’m going to be working extremely hard this summer, to come back, to really make an impact next year,” Kadri said. “I think we’ve got the team and the personnel to put ourselves back in that position. It would just be nice to get back next year, and have some type of normalcy. I feel like that’s when I’m at my best, when I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I’m just really grateful that everyone with the Avalanche really had my back on this. I think they know the kind of person I am. I’m going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got in return.”

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies. Previously Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report to name just a few.

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Christopher

Great article, Adrian. Kadri sounded sincere and contrite. I believe him that the hit was meant to be hard and disrupt, but not to injure. Excellent reporting, Dater.

Jon

Nice scoop, and read.

idavsfan

Nice article AD – the NHL DoPS is a total joke and an embarrassment to hockey

Rick

Great, great article, probably the best ever one on this site. The number of Avs fans who’ve bailed on this guy and absurdly suggested he’d get exposed in the expansion draft or traded is extremely disappointing. He’s been everything I’d hoped for and the type of player the Avs sorely needed for a long time. I’ll never forget the way he immediately and stoutly stood up for Donskoi at MSG two seasons ago or the tremendous skill he’s shown as a 2C..Please let him how know many of us understood that this play was different than the ones that caused… Read more »

Nathan Edwards

Very nicely written piece of information pertaining to this entire playoff mishap. I still feel he could of avoided that head area. I pushed hard to make the Kadri trade, and to this day I feel they should work out a 3 year extension for him , barring he sits down with Sakic and discusses his role for the playoffs and moving forward type of deal. His grit was sorely missed in the Vegas series , more so in games 3 to 6.

Matt Briggle

Great interview AD, nice to hear his side of things. I’m with him that the 8 games was excessive. My only regret about the whole thing is that he didn’t alter his line and point of contact by about 6 inches and just hit him square in the body.

Tracey

Nazem Kadri is targeted because he sticks up for himself and tream mates His Team never backed him up or gave him the respect appreciation and recognition he more than earned Longest Player to play for the Leafs and because there million dollar players couldn’t make it to next round they blamed Kadri When they should blame the Coach Which proves how valuable Kadri is to get points and wins for the team and probably why he gets ridiculous fines and game suspension and other players do worse hits play or fighting and get and smack on the wrist I’m… Read more »

Kf

While it’s very true there was no malice and was not an intentional head hit, its still a head hit. Doesn’t matter who you are, they are always going to call that. Yes he has a rap sheet and that’s why his punishment is longer than others. But make no mistake, if it was Crosby or some other star, he’d still be suspended. Unless you are Tom Wilson.

Kf

Also this is one of the reasons he was traded from Toronto. A great centre and offensive and defensive threat, is always suspended by game 3. That has to stop. Who would want a great player that helps you get to the post season and then is gone for it.

Yan Girard

First, I never believed that Kadri committed voluntarily the act towards Faulk. It’s difficult to say that because I like what Kadri brings at the Avs but I think maybe that the Avs should consider to give it up by trade or expansion draft. Kadri is a marked player by NHL due to its history. Also, in the next playoffs, Kadri will he be afraid to play his game? Kadri will he have the same efficiency in his game? The Avs is in a window of opportunity to win Stanley Cup. Can Avs trust in Kadri for the next playoffs?… Read more »

Darrin B

What a crybaby sour grapes article. He hit the guy in the head. Doesn’t matter if he thinks it wasn’t intentional, it’s the rules of the game. And besides the AVS got a break in the game against the knights when Graves took out Janmark. That should have been a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct. With a possible suspension too. And if that call is made correctly then he doesn’t get involved with Reeves at the end of the game because he would have not been on the ice. So give it a rest with the sob… Read more »

Rick

Oh what basis would Graves hit on Janmark be a freaking 5 minute major and game misconduct? Graves hit him in the chest with his shoulder and Janmark’s head hit the glass. It was a bit late but during intermission after that period on the Sprortsnet broadcast Friedman timed it and .6 seconds elapsed between the puck leaving Janmark’s stick and the hit. Multiple hits that late happen per game and go unpenalized. It was barely even a minor let alone a freaking major. Janmark admired his pass and Graves blew him up, it was that simple.

Steve Vockrodt

I can appreciate his sentiment and can accept at face value that he had no intention to injure. However, it was a bad hit and he still has a history of bad hits. Reputations are earned and follow you. That can be good or bad.

Other hits are irrelevant whataboutism. The suspension was just and the consequence to the Avalanche was what it was.

chippy play

Agree that it was a bad hit and with his history the suspension needed to be significant.

But no, similar hits around the league are not “whataboutism.” Suspensions aren’t determined in a vacuum – they’re determined in light of precedent. Read Bertman’s written ruling – it’s full of comparisons to other hits. That’s how it’s done.

Edward

I concur..it’s a great article, giving us the insight from the player’s perspective. I am proponent of Nazem, but he does need to think straight when he is on the ice. I think he should have known by now NHL has different rules or different players. NHL DoPS has been looking to make a example of him since day 1, perhaps there is prejudice.In any event, Kadri acknowledge it’s the offender and not the offense….too bad that realization didn’t set in prior to his hit on Faulk. Hopefully, he can ire to the side o caution when he is on… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Edward
Ted

Bullshit. The guy is dirty player and got everything he deserved. He fully intended to take out Faulk by any means necessary.

[…] “I feel like it’s more the offender and not the offense” – Nazem Kadri on th… […]

[…] Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri chose our Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now to break his silence and give his side and opinion on officiating. . Kadri was blunt in his assessment of the call against him. “…it’s the offender, […]

G BG

Has anyone seen the video explanation of this one that DPS usually produces? I’d love to know how they justified that as an 8 playoff game suspension — when Wilson gets minimal time from DPS.

[…] to really have a player clue in and look to change the way they play the game. Instead, Kadri seems to have taken issue with the way the league handled his suspension, believing other players throughout the 2021 […]

Jbeude

He got what he deserved, unintentional? Not hardly, it was obvious he was aiming for the head. It is the main reason the arbitrator upheld the decision. Kadri should be banned from the sport.

Scott

Kadri is a skilled player that costs his team more than he gives. I wouldn’t want to play with him knowing he will eventually do something selfish and get suspended.

Anna Roberts

Good article. My opinion the only reason why the 8 games suspension was upheld was because of his previous play. Unfortunately the NHL, Refs don’t like him.. I have seen him on the ice during faceoffs and one ref will boot him from the circle for no reason. He has played well for the Avs, his passion for the game is seen on the ice. Kadri most memorable moment for me is when he had a goal in the final 0.03 second against the Blues. His pure delight tells me I hope he will be in Avs training camp in… Read more »

[…] to really have a player clue in and look to change the way they play the game. Instead, Kadri seems to have taken issue with the way the league handled his suspension, believing other players throughout the 2021 […]

[…] — Nazem Kadri broke his silence for the first time since his playoff suspension in the second round against Vegas. (CHN) […]

DK

A well laid-out and written argument for Kadri’s case… Unfortunately, this incident will have profound effects on Kadri’s future with the Avalanche. From now on it will be the old “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” paradox. Judging from some of the harsh commentary below this article, I would guess that Kadri will either alter his play and then be criticized for not bringing the heavy checking game he is known for OR he will continue to play as he does and likely have a questionable hit or two and he will be criticized for that. Either way,… Read more »

Ujn Hunter

“Repeat offender” confuses nobody… “Has this player done this before?” “Yes” “Repeat offender” “Thank you” It doesn’t matter if he “didn’t mean to do it”, he did it, and he’s done it before…

chippy play

Not sure how you ended up on this site, since this is clearly the first thing you’ve read on the issue.

rafterman191

We know this is nothing new and typical of the NHL’s treatment of the Avalanche. From Val Kamensky’s broken forearm to this… consistently short end of the disciplinary stick.

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