Good Afternoon Wilderness... I hope this finds you feeling well. I am going to pose a question to you today: are the Minnesota Wild tough enough? On Thursday night, I looked at this subject on my fan blog. Some in the Hockey Wilderness fan base are not happy right now. Some Wild fans feel that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri got away with a free one.
I believe these fans are right.
At the 07:07 mark of the first period in Wednesday night's game, Toronto forward Nazem Kadri ran over Minnestoa Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, delivering a vicious, dirty elbow to his head. As a result of the hit, Backstrom was knocked out of the game with an apparent head injury. Today, Michael Russo is confirming that Backstrom is out with a concussion. Kadri "should" have been kicked out of the game at that point and never had an opportunity to take a run at Mikael Granlund at the 08:41 mark of the third period. (video of hit)
For his efforts, Kadri was given a given a five-minute major and match penalty for the hit on Granlund. Are you ready for this? The NHL suspended Kadri for his dirty elbow Backstrom, but the Leafs forward got nothing for his hit on Granlund. The NHL decided not to give Kadri any supplemental discipline for that hit. That's not a typo. What's even more puzzling is why wasn't Kadri suspended increased for the hit on Granlund? Wouldn't he be a considered repeat offender with the illegal hit on Backstrom? Maybe I can't look objectively at this because I wear Wild tinted goggles.
This is only half of the equation. When Niklas Backstrom was run over, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter came up to Kadri and crosschecked him, to let him know that he didn't appreciate the hit. No one else from the Wild challenged Kadri.
From Michael Russo's blog today. Russo asked Yeo about the Wild being called a quote-unquote "soft" team.
"First off, obviously who's the first [player] to jump on top of him [Kadri]?" Yeo said. "[Ryan] Suter. So to say that we didn't do anything, that's false actually. And if you want to get into it, it's this simple really: They've got [Colton] Orr on the bench, they've got [Fraser] McLaren (he actually didn't play, so I'm not positive whom Yeo meant), they've got [Mark Fraser]. They've got one after another. So if we go after Kadri, well, are they going to go after Konopka? No. They're going to go after one of our top guys. They've got more down the line where they can keep playing that game.
"So where we have to be better is on the power play. Teams have to be afraid to pull that crap on us [because] they're fearful of our power play. But at the same time, what I like is that our guys continued to play the game. I'll take exception with anybody that tries to call us soft because that's not true. Where it'd be soft is if they tried to have a physical impact on us. And as far as I'm concerned, we raised our game. And that to me is tough[ness]. It's a different type of tough.
I think there's a good point here. Does Ryan Suter or another Wild player beat the living tar out of Nazem Kadri and negate the power play? Or do the Wild wait and pick a time to challenge Kadri later in the game? Does the score board dictate how you respond? I believe that it does. I believe that Wild responded properly in this situation, they decided to go on the power play instead of retaliate.
Moreover, do you want your All-Star defenseman, who plays 30-minutes a game, breaking a hand or getting hurt in a needless fight? I would say no! You might run the risk of Colton Orr running him later in the game, too.
Seriously, according to hockey fights, Suter is not a fighter; he's been in two NHL fights during his NHL career. Both fights were against skilled players (Marian Hossa and Brenden Morrow). The last time that he fought was during the 2008-09 season.
Wild head coach Michael Yeo is on to something. The best way to make the Leafs pay is on the power play in this situation. Also, the Toronto Maple Leafs are full of cement heads and the Wild only have Zenon Konopka and Clayton Stoner, there's not a lot of other fighters on the Wild. That's not their game. I don't think they're a soft team either. If the Wild coaching staff takes someone out of the line up to put Mike Rupp in, they screw up the chemistry that's working right now as well. As I have said in the past, I love a good fight, but sometimes the best option is to turn the other cheek.