On the topic of the Toronto Maple Leafs handing Nazem Kadri's a two- (but really three-)game team suspension for tardiness and a "history" of "other incidents," Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet shared this:
Joffrey Lupul admitted Monday he was once benched for a game while with Anaheim under similar circumstances, but no one knew.
Last night, the Dallas Stars sat Cody Eakin for disciplinary reasons in Philadelphia. Lindy Ruff and Jim Nill declined further comment, saying it was dealt with internally. Barely a peep. Eakin should send a gift basket.
One coach texted, "This happens more often than you think. The coaches are constantly trying to protect the players, but also have accountability… which is a very, very hard balance."
Not to make this an unintentional follow-up to our in-depth series on accountability and leadership, but those anecdotes are good reminders that scratches happen for many reasons, often not made 100 percent clear to the viewing public who die each day over them and the media who report them (and promptly get firebombed with insane questions on Twitter).
Islanders fans are among the many fanbases (29 others at last count) containing a segment who absolutely lose their collective [Avery] every time a scratch or lineup insertion they don't like is announced. (The best is when a reporter tweets a speculative move out from the morning skate, half the team's followers go into meltdown between, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., only to learn it was all a misunderstanding anyway. Those are six hours of angst you'll never get back.)
Though there are some common targets by the majority of Isles (Brian Strait probably qualifies this season), there are also scapegoats of various smaller torch-bearing fan groups (Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey, Matt Martin) who just hate, hate, HATE it when some Unworthy NHLer is in the lineup over someone else.
Often unsupported reasons are put forth by fans -- "X is the coach's favorite player, Y is blamed for everything, Z doesn't hustle," but often we're grasping at straws.
Now, granted, Matt Donovan hasn't sat in cold storage most of the season because he missed an unreported meeting. Thirty-eight-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky hasn't been held out of a sprinkling of games down the stretch because he missed some unreported curfew. And Grabner probably wasn't scratched the other night because he broke a team rule by reversing the rotation of the earth during the morning skate.
But it's worth remembering: Teams have specific rules and culture, habits and various things they keep "in the room" for the respect of all involved.
"This happens more often than you think. The coaches are constantly trying to protect the players, but also have accountability… which is a very, very hard balance."
It's a good bet those out-of-the-blue, head-scratching (no pun intended) scratches are more often due to nagging injuries, matchups, or weaknesses (real or perceived) that worry a coaching staff. But as you do your armchair roster management, don't forget the "protect, but hold accountable" dynamic is a variable too. Sometimes it's even the right explanation.
We just usually don't know when.