Gudas will avoid supplemental discipline for his hit along the boards on Vesey, the highly hyped Rangers rookie, in a preseason game on Monday night. Gudas was given five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct, along with five minutes for fighting defenseman Dylan McIlrath afterwards.
Vesey stayed in the game, and scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who eventually lost to the Flyers in overtime.
Gudas has been suspended before, and the potential was there for some message-sending from the NHL in the preseason, having already suspended Niklas Hjalmarsson and Andrew Shaw and with a hearing for Tanner Pearson upcoming. In fact, that’s why we expected he would be suspended: As a preseason alarm clock for hitters. The Department of Player Safety has rolled like this before.
But ultimately, the NHL believed the fault fell to Vesey for the hit, because “turning just prior to contact” is one of those “get out of a hearing free” cards for the Department of Player Safety.
Check out the 6:30 mark of this video for examples of “turning just prior to contact.”
Again, you come back to the mission of the Department of Player Safety, as spelled out by Brendan Shanahan upon its founding: Get dangerous hits out of the game and punish the repeat offenders.
Gudas crosses the line with frequency, but no one will dispute that’s a penalty. But when it comes to supplemental discipline, the fact that Vesey turned prior to the hit all but exonerates him in the eyes of the NHL.
Honestly, the message sent by not suspending him may speak louder than if they had: Not every boarding penalty leads to suspension, and there’s a responsibility on the player being hit for the outcome of the play – and, in the end, whether that play rises to the level of suspension.
What do you really want out of the game: This amateur hour move along the boards by Vesey that’s going to put him on a stretcher one day, or Gudas delivering this hit?
There’s a ton of outrage over this decision, but based on how the Department has previously established its stance on turning prior to the hit, they got this one right.