On Tuesday, the NHL threw the book at the Buffalo Sabres winger, suspending him for 10 games because of the hit. Kaleta has already served two games of the suspension while waiting for an in-person hearing to be conducted earlier today. The in-person hearing meant the NHL could suspend Kaleta for more than five games.
Cue the Shanaban Express!
Kaleta will forfeit $152,439.02 in salary (($1,250,000 cap hit / 82 games) x 10 games), and he is eligible to return on Nov. 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Kaleta is considered a repeat offender by the NHL, having been suspended twice since the start of the 2011-12 season. This is Kaleta’s fourth suspension since 2009, and he will have served 21 games total.
- Kaleta first joined the black book on Nov. 28, 2009, with a two-game suspension after hitting Philadelphia Flyers forward Jared Ross from behind. Kaleta was given a boarding major for the hit.
- On Nov. 3, 2011, Kaleta was suspended for four games for a hit on Flyers forward Jakub Voracek where he led with his head. Though he was not penalized on the play, Kaleta was considered a repeat offender, having been previously caught head-butting three times in less than two seasons, resulting in a fine in one instance.
- On Mar. 3, 2013, Kaleta earned a five-game ban for pushing Rangers forward Brad Richards into the boards from behind. He was given a major for boarding and a game misconduct.
This brings us to the hit on Johnson. Kaleta skated across the ice at a high speed, making a beeline for Johnson. Similar to Alexander Edler, who caught Tomas Hertl in the head to earn a three-game suspension on the same night, Kaleta didn’t make an effort to change his approach angle to make the hit legal, which indicates intent and resulted in another high hit.
Kaleta’s 10-game ban makes me take a (shorter) trip in the Wayback Machine to 2011. More specifically, I’m looking at Trevor Gillies, then of the New York Islanders. Gillies, of course, was part of the Penguins-Islanders brawl on Feb. 11, 2011, which had a closer resemblance to Friday Night Fights than a hockey game.
Gillies started the biggest brawl of the night with a high hit on Eric Tangradi, earning a nine-game suspension for his actions, not the least of which included taunting the wounded Tangradi and punching him several times after Tangradi was already knocked out.
However, a leopard can’t be made to change its spots. In Gillies’ first game back from the suspension, he went high again, this time on then-Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. Gillies was suspended 10 games for the Clutterbuck hit, then only played three games before
being exiled to signing in Russia.
Gillies clearly didn’t learn his lesson from his first suspension, going right back to his targeting ways and showing little to no respect for the safety of others.
Could The Suspension Be Appealed?
He can absolutely appeal the suspension, and he has until Thursday to do so. However, I can’t see him getting too far. Allen Tung from The Canuck Way wrote an excellent article about suspension appeals in reference to Edler, as he addressed the CBA rules governing suspensions and appeals.
For Kaleta, his appeal would be heard by a neutral arbitrator as the suspension is more than six games. However, the arbitrator would also need to consider his past history of head shots. When all the cards on the table, the evidence overwhelmingly points to a man who hasn’t learned his lesson, and isn’t willing to change his ways.
This brings us back to our main subject, and our million-dollar question.
Will Patrick Kaleta Change?
It’s a tough call. History dictates that pests and agitators with checkered pasts can go in either direction.
We’ve already talked about Gillies and his inability to change, but there’s another player out there with a similar reputation. That player’s name is Matt Cooke.
Cooke’s history with questionable hits and supplemental discipline is well-documented, and he’s been one of the most reviled figures in recent NHL history to the point where Evander Kane was cheered for knocking him out. However, mention him to Bruins fans and their blood will boil, as he essentially ended Marc Savard‘s career with a blindside hit.
However, it wasn’t until he received a 17-game suspension in 2011 (10 regular season, plus seven playoff games) for elbowing Ryan McDonagh in the head that Cooke made a conscious effort to change his game. Depending on who you talk to, the old Cooke returned when his skate sliced Erik Karlsson‘s Achilles tendon, but apart from that incident, Cooke has been on the straight and narrow, proving he is no Sirhan Sirhan. He’s even making significant contributions offensively, including a 19-goal season with Pittsburgh in 2011-12.
I want to believe Patrick Kaleta can change, but I have a hard time seeing how it could happen. He’s Sean Avery, only with dirty hits instead of a dirty mouth. When Kaleta was suspended following the Richards hit, he complained to the media about being a healthy scratch once the suspension was up. It didn’t sit well with Ryan Miller, who told Kaleta to grow up. It reminded me of one of those temper tantrums a kid has in a grocery store where the kid does something bad, yet they still think they deserve something.
The most disturbing (and perhaps telling) quote in the narrative comes from Kaleta himself, courtesy an MSG.com article.
“I try to play a clean, hard-nosed game. A lot of people don’t like that.”
I don’t know where head shots, head-butting, and hitting from behind figure into playing a clean game, but I do know it may be just a matter of time before karma comes to claim Patrick Kaleta.