Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Each week Elliotte Friedman posts his excellent “30 Thoughts” piece regarding the goings on in the NHL. We’ll dig through all 30 of his tidbits and lay down all of the Maple Leafs related news for your perusal, along with our reactions, which next to Friedman’s commentary will look like a string of feeble mutterings. For this week’s full 30 Thoughts, go here.
1. Asked a few players what they thought of Scott/Kessel. The majority thought Kessel was justified in his actions. On Monday, Scott told reporters in Buffalo, “I wasn’t going to try to hurt him. I was just trying to send a message.” The thing is, there is no way in the moment Kessel knows that. If he gets hurt, how much does it cost him, especially since he and the team are working on a long-term extension? The one thing a couple did say was he could have skated away from Scott before puck drop. That was the only “out” he had.
There aren’t too many people out there that I’ve seen think Kessel was unjustified in his actions (with an exception to Leafs haters that also seem to forget that Kessel is one of the NHL’s best players), and I tend to agree. He may have crossed the line a bit with the second slash, but I can forgive him for losing it in the heat of the moment when a man 8 inches taller and over 70 pounds heavier decided it would be a good idea to start a fight with him. The skating away “out” is a bit of a non-starter for me, Kessel would have been derided as a coward (no matter how many people right now are saying it would have made him the bigger man), Kessel had to show he wasn’t running away.
2. Here’s why I have no problem with the three-game exhibition suspension: my opinion on this stuff changed after Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore. Moore skated away, turtled and was still badly injured. John Scott is a powerful guy. If he connects, even without all of his force, Kessel could get hurt. Imagine, if that happened, the fallout we’d be seeing. The damage to Kessel and the sport is not worth it. If the Sabres want to rough up Kessel, do it with punishing checks or hard play. Fighters should not be targeting non-fighters.
Fighters like John Scott, Colton Orr, Fraser McLaren, and the rest of the “all punch no play” brigade simply shouldn’t be in the NHL. Guys like Jordin Tootoo and Chris Neil that fight and can still play 10+ minutes with embarrassing themselves, sure why not. While he technically didn’t do anything suspension worthy, the NHL should have suspended Scott anyways to send him this message: it’s not okay for you to touch guys like Phil Kessel, do it again and see if you ever play a game in this league again.
8. Clarkson’s 10-game suspension and cap problems it creates don’t only affect the unsigned Cody Franson. GM Dave Nonis made it very clear last weekend that if Morgan Rielly makes it on merit, he will be there no matter the crunch. The rookie’s hit is just above $925,000 with bonuses that could affect next year’s cap. Is that still possible?
David Clarkson, the signing the keeps on giving! Even with Franson out, I don’t really see a spot in the line up for Morgan Rielly regardless, so I think this is a bit of a non-starter. The cap crunch could affect Toronto’s desire to give Rielly the 9 games of NHL experience available to him before he burns a year on his contract however and it looks like that may not happen now pending a trade (please be John-Michael Liles).
10. If Cody Franson is serious about Europe, he loses control over his potential destination. If he plays any games in another league after the NHL season begins, he must clear waivers. Seems unlikely.
Since Franson seems to want a 1-year deal anyways, I’m not sure he would care too much about his destination, especially if it’s only for part of the season after playing in Europe. I still feel strongly that Franson will be signed by the Leafs, but with the current cap situation, it may have to wait for either David Clarkson’s return from suspension, or a trade that opens up some cap room.