Perhaps Dave Hakstol’s disdainful post-game comments about Cale Makar’s late hit on Jared McCann got through to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Makar was given a hearing by the league’s disciplinary arm Tuesday, and he was assessed a one-game suspension.
“It’s a late hit, where the puck is out of play,” Hakstol said after the game. “Canner shoots that puck, it goes immediately out of play, straight up into the netting… I believe the puck is being caught by a fan as Canner is being run into the end wall. So, late hit; really late, no puck in play.”
Hakstol also confirmed that the injury sustained by McCann on the play would keep Seattle’s 40-goal scorer out for at least Game 5, and probably longer.
The fateful hit came about nine minutes into the first period. With the Kraken killing a questionable penalty call on Yanni Gourde, Matty Beniers sprung McCann on a shorthanded breakaway after a stretch pass. McCann got stopped by Alexandar Georgiev, then watched the puck deflect up over the glass for a stoppage. He was paying no attention to Makar and wasn’t bracing for any kind of hit, being that there was simply no reason for him to take contact in that moment. The play was over, and a good three seconds had elapsed since the shot had been taken.
But Makar decided to violently slam McCann into the wall, causing him to hit his head on both the glass and the ice. McCann was down for an extended period, then helped to the bench and down the tunnel.
The on-ice officials didn’t appear to be calling any penalty initially. They then huddled, assessed a five-minute major, and went to the penalty box to review the call. After review, they lowered the penalty to a two-minute minor, a power play on which the Kraken did convert for Daniel Sprong’s goal.
Still, the punishment doled out by the refs was clearly insufficient, considering the damage Makar had done. Good on the Department of Player Safety for looking into it and giving supplementary discipline for Makar’s actions, even if the severity of the sentence is up for debate.
“It is important to note that McCann is in no way eligible to be checked on this play,” the department said in its decision video. “Makar finishes this hit well outside the allowable window for finishing this check. In addition, it is clear that Makar knows McCann is not in possession of the puck when he decides to deliver this hit.”
Makar became the villain in an instant
Makar, the ultra-skilled defenseman, is not known for dirty play or attempting to injure players. In the eyes of Kraken fans, though, he is suddenly public enemy No. 1, made clear by their incessant booing every time Makar touched the puck in Game 4. Heck, at times, the crowd even booed Makar just for stepping onto the ice.
In what had been a relatively tame series through Game 3, Makar’s poor decision turned things in a nasty direction, and we are confident it will continue that way for the remainder.
Ironically, Makar will be back in the lineup just in time for Game 6, the last home game of the series for the Kraken, whose fans will surely be ready to taunt No. 8 at the drop of a hat.
Is one game enough?
If McCann ends up missing the remainder of the series, then a single game for Makar feels light, but there is context to consider. First, Makar has no history of fines or suspensions, which does weigh into disciplinary decisions. Second, the weight of suspending a player for a playoff game is far more significant than doing so in the regular season, so a playoff game is generally viewed as equivalent to two regular-season games.
Given the violent and unnecessary nature of the hit, we would have liked to see a second game handed out to Makar. But the department is also known for its inconsistency, so the fact they gave any kind of suspension should be a small consolation for Kraken fans.
Makar being banished from Game 5 is also a big deal, perhaps even bigger than McCann not being able to participate, at least for that contest. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is one third of Colorado’s three-headed monster, made up of Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. He had a huge offensive impact on Game 3 and is sure to factor in again when he returns from the timeout turtle. Only having to look out for Colorado’s two dynamic forwards for a game, and not their star blueliner, should make things significantly easier on the defensive side of the puck for Seattle.
Even so, Hakstol and his players would also like to have their top goal scorer for the rest of the series, and that is suddenly looking highly doubtful.
We know these can be highly contentious topics, but what do you think of this outcome, folks? Let us know in the comments (but be nice to each other, please).