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Behind Morgan Rielly’s suspension process and what’s next for the Maple Leafs defenseman

With a full day to digest the news that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety had left open the possibility of suspending Morgan Rielly six games or more for his cross-check against Ottawa’s Ridly Greig, the Toronto Maple Leafs could not hide their dismay at this decision. decision.

“We have spent a lot of time looking at just about every cross-check that has taken place over the last few years and the ones that I thought were similar in nature to Morgan’s were not at all demanding,” said l head coach Sheldon Keefe on Monday. “At the same time, I think there’s also a history of things happening in Toronto and with the Leafs getting more attention and more hype that tends to lead to something like this .

“To that end, I’m not surprised. »

Given the efforts the organization typically takes to stay above the fray and avoid message board-style comments, this was a sign of frustration bubbling behind the scenes.

Rielly’s hearing at the NHL office in New York will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. It’s a shame it’s not recorded for all to see.

The Leafs never imagined their best defenseman could be out for two weeks when the bus pulled away from the Canadian Tire Center Saturday night.

After watching Greig blast a slap shot into an empty net to cap Ottawa’s 5-3 victory, Rielly immediately sought revenge for a perceived slight against his team. He crossed into Greig’s head with enough force to knock him down and was ejected with seconds remaining on the clock.

“I think it definitely deserved a reaction,” Leafs forward Auston Matthews said. “Clearly, Morgan is in no way a bad player or a dirty person. I think his (Greig) approach was something that was bound to happen, someone was going to do it, especially after a play like that.

“I don’t think it’s really necessary to go out there and have a competition of hardest shots in the net.”

Morgan Rielly was handed a five-minute major penalty and a misconduct foul following his cross-check on Ridly Greig. (Chris Tanouye / Free Photography / Getty Images)

Rielly has no history of additional discipline and Greig suffered no apparent injuries during the game. He was a full participant in the Senators’ practice Monday.

If the NHL’s Department of Player Safety had chosen to conduct Rielly’s disciplinary hearing by telephone, it could not have issued a suspension of more than five games. The fact that they instead offered him the option of an in-person hearing was a clear sign that George Parros’ group was leaning toward something longer.

“I thought it would be a fine, to be honest,” veteran Leafs forward Ryan Reaves said. “A fine, maybe a (match suspension). But I come from a different era of hockey where I don’t even think it would have been a fine, to be honest with you.

“The other kid might have gotten a call and said, ‘Be smart. »

As Rielly prepares for his hearing in New York, here’s a look at the factors that will determine how long he’ll be out of the Leafs lineup:

How does the process work?

It’s notable that Rielly chose to accept the NHL’s offer to hold an in-person meeting. He will travel to New York with his agent (JP Barry of CAA Hockey), members of Leafs management and representatives of the NHL Players’ Association to present his case.

Since the COVID pandemic, players have had the option to conduct “in-person” hearings remotely via Zoom and many have chosen to do so, including Detroit Red Wings forward David Perron when he was suspended six games for cross-checking in December. .

Rielly will bring a more personal touch.

The biggest issue against him is believed to be the fact that his cross-check was made after the play and after a goal, rather than during normal game action. He is expected to try to explain to Parros what he was thinking in pursuing Grieg and how the coin got away from him.

“Morgan has just made it clear that he had no intention of how this looked or how this played out, but he’s going (to New York) just to make it clear that he’s not going to let this go away ” says Keefe.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has imposed a range of different penalties for cross-checking infractions in recent years – ranging from a one-game suspension against Edmonton’s Alex Chiasson in 2021 to a of four games against Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in 2022. Perron is suspended for six games.

Although the in-person hearing allows player safety to grant Rielly six or more games, it has the discretion to enter below that threshold.

Every game where he could reduce the ban is valuable, for the Leafs who continue to fight for their playoff positioning and for Rielly who stands to lose more than $39,000 in salary per game that he will ultimately be suspended.

Comparisons with the Perron incident are inevitable. He appealed his six-game suspension to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have it upheld, and he will take the matter to a neutral arbitrator this summer.

In his ruling, Bettman noted Perron had other options when he chose to defend an injured teammate rather than cross-check Senators defenseman Artem Zub to the side of the head.

“He could have pushed him, punched him or even dropped his gloves to fight, but he didn’t. If he had chosen other options to support his teammate, he may still have been penalized, but the episode may have ended without additional discipline,” Bettman wrote.

The same undoubtedly applies to the decision made by Rielly.

What about Rielly’s story?

Rielly doesn’t break the rules very often.

He would play 800 regular season games in the NHL and received a total of 100 minor penalties. As a reminder, Hampus Lindholm, chosen after Rielly in the 2012 draft, selected 205 minors while playing 45 fewer games.

Forty defensemen have played at least 700 games since the start of Rielly’s career in the 2013-2014 season until today. Only five – Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jared Spurgeon, Cody Ceci, Nick Leddy and Cam Fowler – have hosted fewer minors.

Rielly finished fourth in voting for the Lady Byng Trophy in 2019 after a season that saw him get whistled for just seven minor penalties while playing more than 23 minutes a night. Rielly was on her way to another Lady Byng season this year, with just four minor penalties in the first 50 games. He didn’t win the first one until game #41.

“I don’t think Mo has ever done anything dangerous before,” teammate William Nylander said. “What does he have, like, three penalties this year or something?”

Rielly has only been called for three five-minute majors in his career, including the one he got for cross-checking Greig on Saturday.

Last season, when the Leafs played the Jets in October, Rielly received five minutes for fighting and a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he confronted Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey.

Morrissey had just crushed Rielly’s young teammate, Nick Robertson.

Like Greig this weekend, Rielly defended his team.

What are the options if Rielly does not want to accept his punishment?

There is a good chance that this suspension will result in an appeal.

Under the terms of the collective agreement, players have 48 hours after a decision is rendered to officially submit one in writing. They remain suspended if the term of the suspension is still ongoing, and Bettman must hear the appeals on an expedited basis.

In the event that the commissioner confirms a suspension after six or more matches, article 18.13 of the CBA allows the player to bring his case before a neutral arbitrator. He must file that appeal within seven days of Bettman’s decision.

As Rielly awaits his fate, he hopes there is no reason for his case to go this far.

(Top photo: Richard A. Whittaker / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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