TORONTO — It was only a matter of time in the Toronto Maple Leafs 2014-15 season until the controversies started sprouting their own sub-controversies.
Pro sports sometimes sees grown men treated as children, and Shanahan just sent Kadri to his room, took away his phone and his Xbox, and told him to think long and hard about what he had done, mister.
From there, things evolved about how you would expect on a day in which Toronto was scheduled to have an uneventful game against the Buffalo Sabres, who are every bit as bad as the Leafs — worse, even! — but lack their flare for controversy, both in quality and quantity.
Dion Phaneuf, the captain, came out after the team’s morning skate and proved to be equally as obtuse as Shanahan. He said the players were “going to support Naz through this” and offered that Kadri had “handled himself well through this difficult time.” It was as though Kadri had suffered the death of a beloved pet. (Shanahan had earlier said players and coaches were told not to discuss what had earned Kadri the auxiliary suspension.) Phaneuf also said he was glad that Kadri had taken responsibility for his actions on Monday, which he did, although at the time everyone thought the issue was a single ill-timed sleep in.
Then it was Peter Horachek’s turn to dissemble, and after offering that it was “time for THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
It was all more than a bit goofy. But in a season that has been littered with non-scandals that manage to suck up several days’ worth of hot takes on talk radio — the Kessel fight with media, the fan salute, the jersey tossing, the errant tweet, the other Kessel fight with media — it’s only this latest one that really seems like it matters. On Monday, it was Kadri sleeping late, which happens. On Wednesday, it was Kadri being sent a message that a continuation of unspecified “incidents” would likely spell the end of his career in Toronto. Suddenly, all of his history was back in play: Ron Wilson called him too skinny, Dallas Eakins called him too fat, Don Cherry called him all sorts of things, and there were always hints that the player wasn’t disciplined enough to be a reliable professional. By choosing to deal with this in the manner in which they have, the Maple Leafs have thrown this back on Kadri. He apologized for the lateness, now when he returns on Saturday — if he does — he can apologize for … whatever else he did that so chapped his bosses’ hides. It should be noted that Kadri is hardly alone as a young hockey player who spends perhaps a bit too much time doing non-hockey things. The Bruins dumped Tyler Seguin for such misdeeds, the Philadelphia Flyers blew their team up a few years ago for the same reason and the Winnipeg Jets might be doing it now.
“Everyone in the NHL,” Shanahan said on Wednesday, “has to make good decisions.” These Leafs have discovered that they probably won’t like Dad when he’s angry.