Following the announcement on Friday that Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas would be offered an in-person hearing following his slashing of Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault last Thursday, it was all but inevitable that Gudas would be missing a fair amount of time by way of suspension. Gudas (who, due to the impending hearing, was not allowed to play in Saturday’s game against Calgary) had his hearing on Sunday, and it was announced that he’d miss nine more games, as he was given a 10-game suspension by the Department of Player Safety.
From that video, here’s the money quote:
While Gudas asserts that it was not an intentional strike, he does acknowledge that he was aware of Perreault’s presence. All parties involved agreed that the stick movement was reckless and was done with substantial force. Players are responsible for their stick at all times. When a player swings his stick with excessive force and recklessness, he is to be held responsible if it strikes an opponent in a dangerous manner and location. Gudas is not excused from punishment for delivering a forceful blow to an opponent’s neck simply because he asserts it was accidental and the location was not targeted.
The video also mentions Gudas’ status as a repeat offender, which factored into the length of his decision. The slash will cost Gudas a pretty penny:
As a repeat offender, Gudas forfeits $408,546.59 in salary.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 20, 2017
Gudas will be eligible to return on Thursday, December 12 against the Maple Leafs. Until then, the Flyers have some choices to make in terms of their defensive lineup. Gudas isn’t an easy player to replace in the lineup, for a multitude of reasons: he’s a strong play-driving defenseman who typically handles second-pair minutes, he’s a penalty-killing stalwart, he’s a great physical defensive presence, and he’s a right-handed shot (the only one of those among regular Flyers defensemen, in fact).
From a roster perspective, Gudas will probably be “replaced” by Andrew MacDonald, who is coming up on four weeks since the injury he suffered in October and was practicing with the team this past week. Odds are that he will be back with the team soon — if not on Tuesday night against Vancouver, at some point within the next few games, definitely before Gudas’ suspension ends.
MacDonald will likely slide into a top-4 role upon his return, essentially stepping in where Gudas had been, and Mark Alt will likely either head up the Wells Fargo Center elevator to the press box or up the Blue Route to Allentown. Doing that could, perhaps, leave the Flyers with the following defensive pairs:
Provorov - MacDonald
Gostisbehere - Hagg
Sanheim - Manning
If the team wanted to keep some continuity in place with its current defense pairs, it could keep Provorov with Hagg and put MacDonald with Gostisbehere. Or it could keep Ghost with Manning and preserve two of its current pairings, while putting MacDonald with Sanheim. There are a number of options. But whatever the order, those six are the names they’d roll with in this scenario.
The question from there is whether the Flyers believe that MacDonald by himself adequately replaces what Gudas brings. It’s entirely possible that the team looks to replace Gudas’ grit and strength with a bit more grit and strength than the projected defensive roster currently has — with him gone, it’s admittedly a pretty small group of defensemen.
Stylistically, it’d be hard for them to find a better Gudas “replacement” than Samuel Morin, who has been down in Lehigh Valley since mid-October. Morin’s a left-handed shot, so he can’t replace Gudas in that sense, but he’s a big (6’7”, to be exact), physical defensive defenseman who can skate well and play on the penalty kill. That checks off a lot of the boxes in terms of what Gudas successfully brought to the table. Plus, he has some experience playing with Travis Sanheim, who has primarly been paired up with Gudas during his brief NHL career; the two young defensemen spent a lot of time sharing the ice last season with the Phantoms.
The Flyers showed their hand a little bit in October, announcing that Morin had been called up in light of an injury to Shayne Gostisbehere. It was later revealed that Morin was never actually called up to the NHL roster, likely due to an injury that he didn’t initially disclose to the team. Still, by announcing that Morin was to be called up, the Flyers essentially revealed that they were prepared to give Morin some time at the NHL level. If they’re still comfortable with that, the Flyers’ brass may not have a better chance than it does right now, since Morin is healthy and playing hockey again.
If the team wanted Morin to step in, he’d likely either replace Manning or Sanheim in the lineup, as the team’s other four defensemen all figure to be near-locks at this point. If we assume Manning is the scratch (as he was in most games where the lineup choice came down to him or Sanheim), the Flyers could essentially swap MacDonald into Manning’s spot and Morin into Gudas’ spot, which would give them the following pairings:
Provorov - Hagg
Gostisbehere - MacDonald
Sanheim - Morin
Whereas if it’s Sanheim (which, hopefully, it is not), the team could give a look such as this:
Provorov - MacDonald
Gostisbehere - Hagg
Morin - Manning
Whatever the choice is, the Flyers have some decisions to make in Gudas’ absence. We’ll learn more about those decisions in advance of Tuesday’s game against the Canucks.
Finally, apropos of nothing, here’s a funny picture of Radko Gudas with his daughter. Come back soon, Radko, and when you do, watch what you’re doing with your damn stick.