Locked on Leafs: Empty Nets

In the Leafs’ most recent game against the Ottawa Senators on February 10, a disappointing loss turned into fireworks as Senators forward Ridly Greig sent the Leafs home with a slap shot into their empty net.

Typically, if an NHL team is down by one goal near the end of the game, the team will have their goalie come to the bench. This allows them to put another forward or defenceman on the ice, giving them the best chance of scoring a game-tying goal. This is exactly what the Leafs were trying to do against the Ottawa Senators in this game. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they were unsuccessful in doing so. 

For added context, the Senators have always been one of the Leafs’ biggest rivals. Historically, Leafs fans have always shown up in big numbers to games in Ottawa, outshining the home crowd and making the Senators and their fanbase hate the Leafs almost as much as they hate their own fanbase. Their rivalry is also known as “The Battle of Ontario.”

Greig may have been enraged by the Leafs fans overshadowing Senators fans in their own building. While on a breakaway, Grieg shot a slap shot into the Leaf’s empty net. Defenceman and current longest-tenured Leaf, Morgan Rielly, displeased with Greig’s display, cross-checked his face. 

Much of the hockey world agrees that Greig broke an unwritten rule, but many also discussed whether Rielly went too far with his response. Some believe he went overboard, others such as his teammate, Ryan Reaves, believes Rielly was completely justified. Reaves went on to comment that he believes hockey should become more violent, and that players such as Greig should be held accountable when deciding to show up a team on the losing end. 

After much speculation on how Rielly would be disciplined, the NHL Department of Player Safety offered Rielly an in-person hearing. In-person hearings typically denote a suspension of six or more games, so this decision sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world. Reaves predicted that Rielly would receive a fine or one game suspension at most, much less than six or more.

However, following Rielly’s in-person hearing, the NHL slapped him with a five game suspension, resulting in the forfeit of almost C$200,000 of Rielly’s salary. This suspension was very surprising to many, including Rielly himself, who decided to appeal the suspension handed to him. As of February 21, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Rielly’s five game suspension. 

While the NHL continues to be unpredictable when it comes to suspensions, the Leafs were forced to fight through five games without their best defencemen. An interesting note, Rielly’s appeal was schedule for February 20, but the league didn’t make a decision until two days later—a slow pace that would have seen Rielly miss the five games even if the suspension was reduced. This is a big loss for the team, who lack mobility and offensive upside in their defenceman, two areas Rielly thrives in.

Sports & Health Editor (Volume 50); Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his final year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs, you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.


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