Rielly gets hearing for cross-check on Greig
Morgan Rielly will have a hearing with the NHL’s department for player safety for his end-of-game confrontation with Ridly Greig on Saturday.
Rielly charged and cross-checked Greig after the Ottawa Senators forward fired a slap shot into an empty net in the waning seconds of Ottawa’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs didn’t like what was a pretty apparent instance of taunting from the Senators rookie at the end of a game that was already decided.
“I thought it was appropriate,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Rielly’s response.
The department of player safety obviously did not, as Rielly’s stick presumably came up on Greig’s head.
Ridly Greig winds up for an empty-net goal
Rielly responds, this’ll probably get something pic.twitter.com/Gesnvez1nI
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 11, 2024
The suggestion of an in-person hearing means Rielly could be suspended for six games or more. That kind of absence would be damaging to a Leafs team that already has big-time issues on the back end and is scrapping for a spot in the playoffs.
Rielly plays more minutes than anyone on the Leafs — over 24 per game, including on a top pair with TJ Brodie that counters top lines and on the No. 1 power-play unit. Rielly’s 43 points rank fourth on the team and more than the next three Leaf defenders combined.
The fact that Rielly has no history of this kind of thing apparently didn’t matter to the player safety department. It didn’t matter either in 2021 when Jason Spezza, clean for his entire career, was given a six-game suspension for his hit on Neal Pionk.
That suspension was later reduced to four games.
You would have to think the Leafs will appeal here, too.
Fortunately for them, the upcoming schedule isn’t too daunting. The Leafs host the St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Ducks this week before heading on the road where they’ll face the Blues (again) and Arizona Coyotes. After that? The defending champion Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.
How do the Leafs move forward without Rielly? Keefe and his staff will have to lean more on Brodie and Jake McCabe especially, and also 24-year-old Timothy Liljegren. Liljegren figures to move into a top-four role in Rielly’s absence.
The Leafs need him to excel with more responsibility.
This team is already missing Mark Giordano to an undisclosed injury on the back end and playing without trusted forwards David Kämpf and Calle Järnkrok.
(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Freestyle Photography / Getty Images)