Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff still has a bitter taste in this mouth following his team’s exit from the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, his team lost, by way of a 4-0 sweep, to the Montreal Canadiens. But that isn’t the source of his discountenance.
Not one to point fingers and/or lay blame, Chevy calmly spoke about his interpretation of the Mark Scheifele hit that removed both he and Canadiens’ forward Jake Evans from the second round series.
“If you look at the play itself, I think it’s 0.8 seconds from the time that the player picks up the puck behind the net to the point of impact,” Cheveldayoff explained. “0.8 seconds in a game that a player has to make a decision. If you further look at the video and the contention that the puck was already in the net, it’s 0.2 seconds that the puck crosses the line to the point of impact. And then further, if you look at the point of impact, then the player’s head is clearly not the first point of contact. It’s the shoulder into the body and certainly did it potentially ride up and have some head contact? I guess possibly but like it says in the suspension video, that happens in the course of impact all the time.”
Clearly frustrated with the four-game ban handed out to his top player, Chevy did begin his question and answer period on the hit with his well-wishes to the recovering Evans.
“I want to say I’m grateful that Jake is starting to skate again and is recovering,” he said. “We were very thankful that we had heard right after the game had ended that he didn’t have to go to the hospital and that he was, while stretchered off the ice, was up and moving around in the dressing room and was functioning normally and everything like that. So for that we were really, really grateful because you never want to see a player get injured and communicated that to (Canadiens’ GM) Marc Bergevin as well.”
Resorting back to his in-depth study of past charging penalties and charging suspensions, Cheveldayoff did make some discoveries after looking “long and hard at the standard of charging and what escalated it to a suspension type of penalty.”
“Looking at the definition itself, they talked about the escalation of a charging penalty to a suspension is when a player leaves his feet, launches himself into the opponent,” Chevy described. “Certainly, distanced traveled is something that’s talked about, but in this case here, my firm belief is that both players actually traveled the same distance.”
Cheveldayoff went on to explain the various technicalities and judgment calls required when calling a charging penalty and further adding a suspension to the fold.
“One (player) was skating to go pick up the puck and come around the net and make a play,” he said. “One (player) was skating on a backcheck. If you look purely on distanced traveled, every time that you would forecheck on a player, technically then you’re charging if you go and hit a player technically. There are a lot of technicalities in play.”
Obviously frustrated with the league’s decision, Cheveldayoff did have the privilege of serving as a participant on the conference call between Scheifele and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety which served as the suspension hearing.
“If you have to look at player and puck tracking and listen to Mark Scheifele’s explanation of what was going through his mind at that time,” Cheveldayoff added. “Mark Scheifele, at the top of the circles, decreased his speed by 20 percent, coming in, because he was looking to see whether the player was going to spin and go back to the other post or come around the post. So he was making himself available to go at either side. Then if you continue on – and they talk about it in the suspension video itself with Mark – the player is allowed to be hit. Now again, the level of force and stuff like that, that is hard to judge.”
With the Canadiens winning the series in four games, Scheifele will be forced to miss the 2021-22 season-opener as he wraps up his four-game suspension.