Will Matthew Tkachuk be getting a call from Player Safety?

Matthew Tkachuk was all over the scoresheet in the Calgary Flames’ 3-2 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night. He had an assist on Calgary’s power play goal in the first period. He drew three separate minor penalties. But he also took two minors of his own in the third period, which required his team’s penalty kill come up with a pair of big kills to keep the game tied. Tkachuk’s second penalty, officially a roughing call on Marco Scandella, has raised a few eyebrows for being a pretty obvious headbutt.

Will the Flames rookie be getting a phone call from the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety and be levied a suspension or fine for his actions?

First off, a suspension is unlikely. No NHL player has been suspended for a headbutt since 2011-12, when Patrick Kaleta missed four games after headbutting Jakub Voracek. The suspension video in Kaleta’s case cited several instances of similar actions by him in the past, leading them to conclude that his actions were intentional and recommended a suspension (despite Voracek not being injured on the play). He was not levied a headbutting penalty on the play in question. Nate Prosser was suspended one game for a headbutt later that season after being given a major penalty and a game misconduct.

More recently, Andrew Shaw (then of the Blackhawks) escaped without a suspension in 2014-15 after being thrown out of a game in the second period for headbutting Brock Nelson. The Department of Player Safety ruled that the punishment within the game – a major penalty and a game misconduct – was sufficient given the circumstances.

Based on these most recent precedents, it’s likely the combination of (a) the lack of apparent injury to Scandella and (b) the lack of an NHL history of discipline-worthy incidents involving Tkachuk to this point make a suspension unlikely. This isn’t to say that it wouldn’t be deserved: the play was definitely reckless and in seeming retaliation to Scandella’s cross-check. It’s just difficult to justify a suspension in the context of recent NHL disciplinary decisions.

That said, the standard that has to be met to justify a fine is a lot lower. Under the league’s rules, they have the ability to review any incident – whether or not there’s a penalty on a particular play – and levy additional discipline if they deem it necessary. Fining Tkachuk to dissuade him from similar actions in the future may be warranted. Under the CBA, the maximum fine Tkachuk can be levied is half of one day’s pay – or roughly $2,500.

Speaking to the media following the game Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan indicated that he hadn’t seen a replay of the particular incident, but expressed disappointment in Tkachuk taking a pair of penalties late in the game.

  • Jakethesnail

    That’s about the 4-5th real cheap shot of the year by this guy. Should get suspended for this for sure. Hrudey needs to quit being the consummate homer!! Saying ” when he lifted his head” is quite an understatement.

      • Jakethesnail

        We’re talking about Tkachuk and not anyone else. He deserves a suspension for that head butt . It was not an accident. It’s ok for him to play tough but he doesn’t know the line between tough and dirty, and whether you like it or not fans around the league are thinking of him as dirty not tough.

        • MontanaMan

          Get over it. There’s 20 hits in the game much more dangerous than that. What is the chance that the Wild defender was hurt in this altercation (0%). It’s less dangerous than a punch to the head in a scrum and much less dangerous than an open ice hit or a hit from behind. Oilers gonna whine!

          • WSO

            None of what you said has any bearing on whether scandella got hurt or not. It was a puke play by tkachuk. Accept that fact. Embrace it. No question the kid needs to be disciplined.

            The ONLY question flamer fans should be asking is why their ‘Tough as nails’ draft pick skates away from the guys he cheapshots? Maybe kid needs to grow a set?

          • WSO

            Poopy that someone made a valid point and called someone on bias? Poor baby

            I told someome to post evidence mcdavid dives while stating tkachuk shouldnt even bementioned in the same breath as mcdavid. Hurt your feelings?

          • jupiter

            I’ll say this about McDavid. He is a exciting generational player. His speed is unbelievable.

            That speed will also be the thing that set’s him up for injury. Just a matter of time before he’s ridden into the end boards at mach 1. Oiler fans will cry foul,and we’ll all be talking about how a defenseman is supposed to react to that kind of speed.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            Totally agree, you saw what happened when Hamilton lost his balance close to the boards. All McDavid needs to do is catch an edge and he will crash into the boards at Mach 1 speed.

          • T&A4Flames

            I love how these idiot Oiler trolls come in here with their self-righteous preaching. Funny for fans of a team that employ a couple of hr biggest idiot goons in the game in Kassian and Lucic.

          • Jakethesnail

            Lucic and Kassian are as tough as they come and sometimes dirty as well but they will drop the gloves with anyone. Oh and Lucic is not a goon . He is on pace for 65 points this year.

          • calgaryfan

            18 years old playing in the best hockey league in the world, I would say he already has a set!
            Maybe he should spear players in the bag like Lucic’s favorite thing to do?>

        • Bean-counting cowboy

          OK. Let’s talk about Tkachuk. Head butt was a bit dirty but if you watched the game, for the most part prior to this incident, it was Minnesota trying to run the Flames and being undisciplined… not to mention the cheap shot to Gio at the buzzer.

          I didn’t like that Tkachuk took those two penalties late in a tied game… if we were up a pair at the time everyone would be praising the kid for giving it to the scrubs who took out Gaudreau. He’ll learn with time. Frankly it’s refreshing to see some emotion and push-back from some of the guys on this team.

          Some quick hits: he leads the Flames in Corsi and Fenwick playing against the toughest comp on our top shut-down line, all the while being 4th in team scoring… as an 18 year old. Even strength zone start percentage you ask? Try 36%, one of the lowest on the team. Can’t say that about Monahan, Bennett or even Gaudreau in their rookie seasons. Can’t say it about them now!

          Kid’s a flat out gamer and although players on that line have received the “Backlund bump” before… Tkachuk’s turned that line into one of the best in the NHL.

          Oh yah… add to it that he’s a flat out pest and gets the other team off their game and draws penalties!

          So yes… let’s talk about Tkachuk because from where I sit, he might end up being the best Flames 1st round pick of them all!

    • Lucky 13

      Looks like you stirred the wasp nest with your comments. Well done and I’m not being sarcastic. I’m saying good for you, I would hope that we can all be honest about our opinions.

      While I don’t agree with your assertion about Matty,I’m not going to say anything about him,I think our other members have covered that well enough.

      I like Hrudey as a person, but as a colour commentator, he’s brutal to listen to. I honestly don’t know how Rick Ball doesn’t call him “Captain Obvious ” because he regurgitates the same things over and over.

      Before anyone spews venom at me, I’m going to say this. Remember when Rick Ball was calling the Philly game and he had to suddenly stop doing play by play?
      Hrudey had 2 minutes to fill in and all he could come up with was, “Wow Philly is putting on pressure, they are sure putting on pressure ” And I mean that’s all he said.
      Looks like Hrudey is on cruise control these days and yes I’ve gotten to the point where I turn the volume down when he’s color. I’m not trying to be mean,just honest. If I’m the only one that feels this way, then maybe it’s my issue.I just think we deserve better analysis of a game then what he’s willing or able to give.

  • Just.Visiting

    Someone needs to sit down and have a very serious chat with Matt.

    He has a skill level that will allow him to be a respected power forward who is one of the high end players in the NHL.

    Running around hitting everything that moves, taking undisciplined penalties and consciously trying (or being encouraged) to be an overall pest takes away so much from whom he is capable of being and what the team really needs. It sets him up for cheap retribution shots that could easily see him on the IR. It also invites reciprocal behaviour on our own players.

    This style hurts the team and it ultimately hurts himself.

    My paradigm of Brad Marchand was that he was a total jerk on the ice. He’s calmed down in the last couple of years, and I’ve been very surprised to discover what a really good player he is when he tones down the other stuff while remaining a physical player.

    I’m much more interested in watching Matt evolve as a high end player than I am watching a very talented 18 year old trying to be one of the biggest pests in the NHL. That is going to wear really thin really soon with some of the veterans in the league, and it is going to place a ceiling that sees him being a fraction of who is he capable of being.

    I’m very disappointed that the coaches do not appear to be trying to mitigate some of these tendencies now before they become habits.

    • wot96

      I hear what you are saying. I think you are right in saying he needs to tone it down. Frankly, he has toned it down, a lot, from his performances at the summer camp. There is more work to do though.

      I suggest, however, that you don’t know what the coaches have done, or are prepared to do, to attenuate his excesses. Ari suggested he needs to get sat for a game or two.

      Part of this is his age. Not every 18/19 year old is able to maintain complete control over his (or her) emotions. What’s it called? Executive functions? Impulse and emotional control are at the top of the list.

      He needs to work on it, no doubt. But carefully consider the best way to help him (and the team) before disciplining the “hell” out of him.

    • calgaryfan

      over-reaction on your part? you have no idea what the coaches are saying or doing! He has a father that was a pretty good NHL player, who I am sure he chats with. He has brought a lot more positive to the team than negative.
      Corey Perry is a good comparison and no one is suggesting he change his ways!

      • deantheraven

        Corey Perry’s dirty too. Our Young Matthew needs to rein it in a bit lest he be drawn in by the Dark Side. The Force is very strong in this one. An excellent warrior he will be.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m very disappointed that the coaches do not appear to be trying to mitigate some of these tendencies now before they become habits.

      Yeah, I’m sure the coaches haven’t said anything to him about it. Minus the fact that Gulutzan has repeatedly said that he has, in fact had that conversation with him on several occasions. He’s also benched him a couple of times this year after bad penalties–a move also met with ire from some (guess he can’t win, eh?).

      For the record, I didn’t like the play. I wouldn’t call it inherently dirty though. I’m not sure it was an act in malice, but rather stupidity in the moment.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I would go out on a limb and say that Matt was going to be benched after the last penalty but regulation play was ending and he does not play 3v3 because of his skating. If this happened in the second period we likely would not have seen him in the 3rd.

    • Skuehler

      I totally agree with what you are saying.
      But in the play in question, prior to the head butt, Scandella delivers a wicked hack to the ribs followed by a cross check to the back. If the refs dont call that sh!t how is a player supposed to stand up for himself in that situation?
      I think Matt was trying to deliver a little message subtly without taking another penalty. He obviously didnt get away with it. Im not condining what he did, i just think in the vacuum of poor ref-ing players take matters into their own hands sometimes.

    • Justthateasy

      I agree. He’s inviting retribution which is what happened last night. He’s too young to get away with what he does. He needs to play more like Bennett. In your face but not inviting it. Jumping in with both feet just a little too fast.

    • I am Batman

      Absolutely… I’m not a fan of the flames but this kid will have a longer more meaningful career if he takes it down a notch.

      He can be tough, but the dirtiness can get him in trouble. Either with the league or with teams seeking retribution- not necessarily with him.

      He is a good player, he is physical… if he keeps it clean , watch out

  • The GREAT WW

    I absolutely LOVE this kid!!!! (Did everyone on here forget what this team did to Gaudreau?!)

    Could you imagine if he was playing for the Oilers?!

    Enjoy Nail2.0 Puljarvi up north….

    Chuk will be the steal of the draft at #6, he should have gone at #3. I hope he gets some votes for the Calder and comes in third in voting, just like McDavid did…


  • jupiter

    This is written on the premise that the league has rules and standards, that are upheld and consistently applied in disciplinary cases. Except they don’t.

    This is the league that fires an arbitrator, and appeals his decision, based on unsubstantial evidence.

    The commissioner is also sheriff judge and jury.

    Justice in this league is like the old west.

  • Derzie

    Tkachuk is a keeper. Plays hard, takes zero crap, tests the line, walks away once he gets you off your game. In 5 years this kid will be a league wide saddle burr star.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    My concern with Tkachuk is that if he is not managed properly, he could wind up as another Nazim Kadri. Nothing wrong there except who would waste a 6th overall pick for a third-line pest?

    Tkachuk has a greater skill set than Kadri but he also carries his old man’s lazy genes. Will Tkachuk build a career as a rat or as a gifted scorer who can also be a royal pain in the azz? Is he going to become more like Matthew Barnaby or Kenny Linesman?

  • EhPierre

    I’m reading through some of these comments and all I can think to myself is “Pansy”

    The kid’s 18. He grew up watching his father, who everyone’s aware of how he played. Matt will figure it out, in fact he already has when you compare with how he first played out in camp. What I like most about him is he’ll get the opposition players ticked off and when they start roughing him up he’ll simply skate away. That takes a lot of control, not to do anything stupid and get called for a retaliation penalty

    As for the play itself, sure it was a bonehead play (pun intended?) but I thought it was pretty funny. Matt headbutted him in the chest, which Scandella has a chest protector so the chance of injury is pretty much 0%. He also did it after Scandella slashed and cross checked him. Hockey needs to have some character and attitude back in its game, it’s getting too passive to watch. So quit being such a sissy about minor things like this and enjoy the kid, he’s a beaut

  • Aadvarkian Abakeneezer

    Much ado about nothing IMO.

    Still not sure whether he was going for an intentional headbutt or just pissed and really trying to get up in Scandella’s grill in a hurry. He looked surprised after, so that seems to support the thought that he just got mad and started to flail. I’m sure he’ll get a private video session with the coaching staff over it, probably a chat with Gio. Don’t see any more discipline than that being necessary.

    Regardless, it was far from a dangerous play – and probably hurt Tkachuk more than Scandella. If we want to talk about calls from player safety, how about the stick in hand punch to Gio’s face from Zucker at the end of the game? At least as dangerous, probably more so and you know his phone won’t be ringing.

  • Thatz Nuckin Futz

    Good pick for a blog Ryan. You really set up a tempest in a tea pot. The trolls slithered onto the page, Kelly Hrudey got fragged, man this is a tuff room.

    Nobody’s thrilled about Chuk taking a minor penalty late in the game but he’s 18 years old!!!

    Its much easier to reel in a nasty dog than it is to try to convince a scared cat to get in the fight. Its called passion and desire. Two words that would never be used to describe Eberle, RNH, or ………

    Save the dime Gary, the kids are alright in Cowtown.

    • Lucky 13

      Not sure why you would choose a military term to describe comments about Hrudey. Fragged?

      If you read the contextual argument it wasn’t intended to blow him to smithereens, merely an obvious exposure of inane commentating.
      Interesting how Hrudey looks and sounds great on HNIC panel don’t you think?
      Why is there a different Hrudey on this panel?

      Because he is scripted in his analysis, he’s not permitted the usual rhetoric that has defined him on Flames broadcasts.
      Just because I want meat with my potatoes, doesn’t mean I’m not a Flames fan. Left alone ,on his own ,he has as much substance as a Twinkie. I don’t give a nuckin futz if it sounds bad… he is bad
      Is it really too much to ask someone who has been given the privilege of being a commentator to actually be good at their trade?
      I for one think we deserve better, that’s all

      • Thatz Nuckin Futz

        Look up the word metaphor. Last I looked Hrudey wasn’t the topic of this blog but somehow he got sucked into the vortex of random anger that Haters spew.

        I personally like KH. Whatever. Get over yourself.

  • Brick

    Zucker used the butt end of his stick to hit Giordano in the head during this game. That was worse than anything that Tkachuk did. Sometimes, someone has to give back some of what the other team is dishing out. Give the kid some credit.

  • Arminius

    I enjoyed seeing Versteeg slash Staal late in the game on the hands on that Min PP. Versteeg has been playing outstanding. Calm, knows what to do with the puck, scores, given’er

  • The Fall

    I chatted with Craig Conroy about this in Penticton. The second I brought up the shit head plays: Conny got this sly smirk on his face and said “yeah he’s a pest, but he’s our pest.”

    Led me to believe the brass is happy when he’s playing on the edge.

  • The Fall

    I chatted with Craig Conroy about this in Penticton. The second I brought up the $h!+ head plays: Conny got this sly smirk on his face and said “yeah he’s a pest, but he’s our pest.”

    Led me to believe the brass is happy when he’s playing on the edge.

  • BobB

    “Obviously, you don’t want to take those penalties, especially late in the game,” acknowledged Tkachuk. “But I also drew three yesterday.

    “There was one (interference) that was kind of an iffy call. And one that was stupid, I wish I could have back. That wasn’t fun on that one, sitting in the penalty box. It was awkward.

    “I don’t really initiate stuff like that.”

    He’s learning, and playing hard, all you can ask.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Backlund is a late bloomer. He built up his skill set in a somewhat slow, yet reliable way. Started by being very responsible for 200 ft. Now starting to find reliable play making. Next level, hopefully, is being more than just a passer. However, Getzlaf and Thornton are basically just assist machines and they seem like they are okay at hockey. Not saying Backlund is on that kind of level yet, but every year he gets better. Most players have shown their ceiling by his age. I have an optimistic feeling Backlund hasn’t even hit his yet though. GG’S system has been really good for him I think.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    As for Tkachuk. I love hard vein hockey, like most true fans of the game. I don’t feel that way about the kind of thing chucky did that last game though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked about what his style of play brings to the Flames, but for me it’s got to be cleaner. I also think he should cut back a bit on what may be a little embellishment when other players come back at him. Dont want to see hockey players turn into soccer players in that way .

    Take home point again though… he’s without a doubt doing amazing! Small adjustments may be warranted.