It’s been a week since Dennis Wideman’s bizarre, fateful collision with linesman Don Henderson. Or hit. Or crosscheck. Call it what you will, but back on Jan. 27, the Flames blueliner did something illegal to an official, and now, he’s paying the price for it.
Wideman has been suspended 20 games for his actions. He will almost certainly appeal, but for now: that’s 20 games gone, and $564,516.13 in salary lost.
This is a huge suspension, but it’s not surprising that it ended up so big. This wasn’t a player-on-player hit; this wasn’t the NHLPA looking out for its own against another of its members. Wideman’s hearing had a ton of people involved, from NHLPA representatives to the NHL Officials Association to representatives from the Flames organization (Brian Burke, Brad Treliving, and Craig Conroy) to Wideman and Henderson themselves.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) February 3, 2016
Wideman may or may not have been dazed, out of it, concussed, what have you will on the play. There’s likely no way we’ll ever know for sure, but the player himself never admitted to it, neither in real time – he remained on the bench for the rest of the game – nor in his apology afterwards. So perhaps Wideman just made a really poor judgement call, and it’s one that’s costing him, big time.
You have to respect the officials, and actions like Wideman’s – crosschecking a linesman from behind, sending him down to the ice and, ultimately, to the hospital – cannot be condoned in any way. Throw in the fact that there were two warring sides in this matter, and you were bound to get a big number no matter what.
What does this mean for the Flames?
Assuming the 20-game suspension holds up, Wideman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until March 14 against the St. Louis Blues. This is, of course, assuming he’s still a Flame by then (which, in all likelihood, he will be: a suspension of this magnitude isn’t exactly going to make it easier to trade him). In case he isn’t, though, he’ll have served 13 games of his suspension prior to the trade deadline.
So if Wideman can win an appeal and get his suspension knocked down to 12-15 games or so, that leaves a glimmer of hope, and would allow him to return later this month, or in early March as opposed to the middle of it.
But for the time being, unless the Flames can get a roster exemption from the NHL – and for a 20-game suspension, it’s possible, although it doesn’t exactly cripple the team, particularly if he wins an appeal – they’ll be forced to essentially have a 22-man roster.
The Flames already recalled Jakub Nakladal to deal with Wideman’s absence, which gives them seven defencemen for the time being. They’ll carry 13 forwards – so just one extra – rather than the standard 14.
Depending on any future trades, this could open up a spot for another Flames youngster. Kris Russell is an upcoming UFA, and it would be prudent to trade him; this would give the Flames room to bring up Brett Kulak or Tyler Wotherspoon, who Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska suggested could also be replacements.
Ultimately, it isn’t ideal to lose any player for so long. With the Flames completely unable to use him on the ice, Wideman is dead weight. But Wideman was far from one of the team’s better players to begin with, so there are silver linings to this entire situation. Nakladal will finally get his chance, and may even improve the backend; the same could be said for anyone else who may be able to get some NHL games in due to Wideman’s suspension.