Another day, another ugly hit from Radko Gudas. And another instance in which he'll get away with that hit without supplemental discipline.
Gudas was given a match penalty for his hit on Bobby Farnham last night, which was behind the play and totally gross. Here's the video if you missed it:
It was the right call on the ice, because there was clear intent to injure here. But just the match penalty is clearly not enough to get Gudas to change the way he's been acting lately. Something more needs to happen, for several reasons:
1. Not only is this type of play just objectively ugly and something Flyers fans should not support, you can also make the argument that when you continually do this stuff, the officials put a target on your back. Deservedly so, too. And that is going to hurt the Flyers in hockey games before long. They're lucky it didn't hurt them more last night.
2. Gudas has knocked three players -- Buffalo's David Catenacci, Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad and Montreal's Lucas Lessio -- out of action so far this season with questionable hits. (You might even be able to include Ottawa's Kyle Turris on that list as well, victim of a questionable Gudas hit in the same game that Zibanejad was hurt. But I digress.) Farnham is lucky he wasn't the fourth. And Gudas only been given one suspension for those hits.
Maybe you're the type to give credit to Gudas for keeping those hits ever so slightly on the "clean" side of the line, but anybody who takes off their orange-tinted glasses can see the pattern here. Gudas is injuring opposing players at a pretty alarming rate, and at least half of the hits could easily be considered intentional.
In a vacuum, last night’s hit on Farnham probably isn’t worthy of supplemental discipline. But it’s not a vacuum. It’s Gudas leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
3. There's also the fact that at least two of these hits didn't help the team in any tangible way. The Catenacci hit was not necessary from a hockey perspective, and it hurt the team (in the form of a long penalty kill) much more than it could have helped. The Farnham hit was so far away from the puck that you'd have trouble arguing it was even part of the hockey game. The Lessio and Zibanejad hits were at least on the puck, but one was a clear suspension and the other one was borderline too.
Much like my argument last week regarding the Catenacci hit, maybe this isn't a Department of Player Safety issue. DPS typically follows the letter of the law. In this case, the head wasn't the primary point of contact and aside from being waaaaaaay behind the play, the actual delivery of the hit was legal.
But if what Gudas has done -- particularly in the last week -- can go without suspension according to the rule book, maybe it's time to change the damn rule book. I'm going to go back to Deadspin to make my argument for me here, because I really agree with this comment on Barry Petchesky's post this morning:
The league needs to decide what it’s going to do about on ice violence once and for all - they either need to finish the job they’ve started and eliminate hits like the one on Farnham completely, or they need to just throw up their hands and let guys like John Scott come back into the league so the Devils can send someone out to spear Steve Mason or elbow Claude Giroux in the face every time Gudas gets frisky.
Changing the game is a long process, but they’ve left a loophole you could drive a truck through that endangers players.. and the way liability is, players know the game is like this and as such are entitled to no (legal) protections either.
The NHL can't claim to be in favor of player safety and then also allow this stuff. It's gotta change, because it's apparent that Gudas isn't going to change on his own.
At the very least, Dave Hakstol should point to reason No. 1 on my list up there and sit Gudas down for a game or two, because the Flyers also bear some of the responsibility here. At this rate, he's going to hurt the team on the ice sooner than later, and hopefully he doesn't take another player with him.
(Oh, also aside from the ugly hits, Gudas has been pretty bad at being a National Hockey League defenseman in recent games, despite his solid year-long numbers. So just sit him anyway.)