Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres has been suspended five games and fined $75,219.21 for his illegal check of Brad Richards into the boards last night.
Kaleta shoved a defenseless Richards early in the third period while the Rangers were on a power play. Richards went head-first into the boards, and remained down on the ice for several minutes before going back to the locker room under his own power.
Richards eventually returned to the ice, but did not practice with the Rangers earlier today.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said that Richards “will be fine”, however it is unknown at this time if Richards will be game-ready for the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
Richards and Tortorella had plenty of disgust to share about the hit as covered in our previous story.
It would not be surprising to see Richards miss at least one game. He has not reported any concussion symptoms, however, as we saw with fellow star Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh just last week, true symptoms and diagnoses seem to remain a mystery as the team has a tendency to be very conservative with addressing the media on player status.
What is surprising is that Kaleta, a repeat offender, was only suspended five games. For a player that has zero points in 18 games played so far this season, Kaleta has an infamous reputation for being an agitator on the ice and contributing little, if any, to team offensive or defensive capabilities. Kaleta’s role is to instigate and has already been suspended for illegal boarding.
Why Brendan Shanahan, NHL Player Safety and discipline czar, didn’t feel this repeat offender who clearly had injury on his mind when he delivered the illegal check to Richards didn’t warrant a stiffer penalty is beyond me.
Shanahan did at least concur that Kaleta could have easily avoided the incident.
“Kaleta is in full control of this play, and has ample opportunity to make a better decision”, Shanahan said in the official suspension video, shown below.
Players that hurt other players with malicious, pre-meditated intent (read: in this context, only one result would have come from Kaleta’s hit on Richards) should face long-term repercussions and possibly even a ban from the NHL if they are repeat offenders.
At what point will the NHL wake up and realize that player safety is far more important than playing the diplomatic fence that they are today?
If players realize that they could face something as extreme as a 20 game suspension or even a ban from the league, they would force themselves to be much more disciplined on the ice. Until this happens, players that fit into this category simply won’t care.
And make no mistake about it: Kaleta doesn’t care about his hit on Richards. In fact, when questioned earlier today by Buffalo media, his response if he had a message for Richards was simply, “I’m good for now.”
He even said that he felt like “a piece of garbage” about the incident, but not because of hurting Richards, but because he put his team in a shorthanded situation.
Kaleta is bad for the league, and the sport. Period.