As you may have heard by now, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn won’t be playing in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Nashville Predators have suspended them for breaking team rules.
Preds GM David Poile explained the decision as such:
“The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things. We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates.”
Enough credible people have shared that they did exactly what you think they did:
Apparently, Radulov/A.Kostitsyn suspension is a curfew violation.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 1, 2012
From a source on Predators’ “suspensions” of Radulov, Kostitsyn for Game 3: Someone was off the Dry Island on Saturday night.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 1, 2012
Ah yes, that old chestnut.
If Twitter is any indication, a lot of people are confused about how pro curfew works, and in some cases, how a team functions.
Curfew isn’t imposed every night of the season, but generally is on nights you’re heading into the second half of back-to-backs. When you’re on the road, you’ll always have one. And, throughout all of playoffs there’s a hard and fast curfew, usually something completely reasonable like 11.
With it being around 11, You can still go out have a nice evening, but after that time not a whole lot of good can happen for people whose job involves being at their physical peak the next day.
The thing is, guys respect the “concept” of curfew. Nobody actually calls your home or knocks on your door, so if you’re out at a movie that runs to 11:15, you’re not sprinting to make it back. You don’t sign in anywhere – it just is. You follow it casually but respect it, because you’re not just messing with your life if you’re ragged the next day and playing below your potential. Guys do hold each accountable when the time is right. If a guy goes out and has a few too many one night in the middle of a back-to-back, his stallmate isn’t gonna go tell the coach or something, but when playoffs arise, I’ve seen a captain bawl out players more than once.
Because you aren’t checked on, that means you could go out and chase the ladies until 2am. You could hide it from your teammates (especially when you’re at home). And, with hockey teams being comprised mostly of healthy young men, that’s going to happen from time to time, and guys are going to get away with it. Hell, I wrote an article on how to get away with it a couple years ago.
So, to get caught, you have to really screw up. The biggest red flag going is showing up late to morning skate – it draws immediate scrutiny. Missing morning skate? You’re boned. You can’t have booze on your breath, you can’t be late for video, you have to be responsible and still do your job. If you do that, it’s never really a problem.
So to get suspended for a playoff game in a series in which they’re down 2-0 and headed home, Radulov and Kostitsyn must have really screwed up. They weren’t 30 minutes late after some fine dining - their offense was far bigger than that, I promise.
But, you have to suspend when stuff like this happens, as counter-intuitive as it sounds.
Logically, it’s a big game. These are top-six forwards on the Preds, and in playoff games that are tight and head to overtime regularly, you want every game-breaker you have available to you (even as poorly as they’ve played). From the outside looking in, you fine them, you deal with their punishment after the crucial games have been played, something.
But that’s just not how hockey teams work. There are too many players on a roster to control with individual sets of rules for individual people at separate times. These are our team rules, this is what we live by. In a way, the rules your team chooses to enforce end up defining your team identity. And, how strictly you abide by them can affect how disciplined your team is. There’s a reason we’ve been saying for years “Geez, Nashville’s good again with that roster? Get Trotz the Jack Adams, ASAP.”
The Preds stick to their guns. In a sport where you rely on the other four skaters to be in position at all times or you’re hooped, there’s no room for error.
Ellen Etchingham has written about how millimeters matter in hockey, and I like my odds of getting the right ones from a guy hungry, desperate to play in playoffs who’s been watching from the press box than the guys who apparently don’t give a shit.
This stuff has torn teams apart before - earlier today Mike Halford of Pro Hockey Talk tweeted a link to a piece of Jimmy Devellano’s book “The Road to Hockeytown” that highlighted an incident in a bar called “Goose Loonies,” where six Red Wings (headlined by Bob Probert) were drinking before Game 5 of the NHL semi-finals. They were out of playoffs before they knew it. It erodes teammates trust, and hurts you on the ice. So nip it in the bud.
The Predators next game is in Nashville tomorrow night, and Radulov and Kostitsyn will watch from the press box. If the Preds don’t win that game, their season is as good as over. But, I think they did the right thing off the ice, and as a result, I think they’ll be just fine on it.