Why Don Cherry, Sheldon Keefe need to grow up about Morgan Rielly cheap shot against Ridly Greig

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators
Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Morgan Rielly was suspended five games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his cheap-shot hit against Ridly Greig this weekend. But apparently, some loud NHL voices think missing games is worth it because the Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman followed a ridiculous archaic code.

Keep in mind, Rielly is one of Toronto’s most important players and the Maple Leafs only have a four-point lead for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

So, first things first, Rielly getting suspended is suboptimal for the Maple Leafs. He’s averaging 24:21 in ice time, most on the Maple Leafs. The NHL All-Star is seventh among all defensemen with 43 points (seven goals, 36 assists) in 50 games and has eight assists in his past seven games.

But that appears to be OK with Rielly’s coach Sheldon Keefe, Maple Leafs captain John Tavares and, not surprisingly, Canadian hockey legend Don Cherry.

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Morgan Rielly has Maple Leafs’ support after cheap-shot hit against Ridly Greig

Each supported Rielly for cross-checking Greig in the head long after the forward’s empty-net goal sealed a 5-3 win in Ottawa on Saturday. Why was the 21-year-old attacked? Because he took a slap shot into the empty net, putting an exclamation point on his goal and the victory.

“I am glad Rielly was on (the ice) and I’m glad he did it” Cherry explained. “I know there is no rule in the book that says you don’t do that (slap shot into empty net) but you just don’t do that.”

The unwritten rule here supposedly is that Greig should have slid the puck into the cage since no one was near him or in position to stop the goal. But really, how was his extra mustard on the shot any more of a slap in the face than a super wild goal celebration that was not into an empty net?

“I thought it (Rielly’s reaction) was appropriate,” Keefe said postgame. “That’s the reactions of the game and that’s how it goes.”

So, it’d be OK for say Senators defenseman Jakob Chychrun to attack Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews or perhaps Tavares in the same manner, just because he’s frustrated or took offense to the goal?

Yeah, doubt it.

And, yes, the word attack is appropriate here. Watch the video. Greig is completely defenseless.

Listen to this explanation from Tavares, one of the more respected gentlemanly players in the NHL.

“We obviously didn’t like the result on the empty netter,” he said. “So, we’re going to stick together and stand our ground when necessary.”

Stand our ground? Really? The opposing player emphatically scored into the empty net. He didn’t assault one of your teammates, JT. What ground are we talking about here?

You expect this reaction from Cherry, he of the hockey fight videos and longtime bombastic host of Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.

But the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs? And their captain?

Time to grow up boys.

Though not even a long suspension for Rielly will likely change their thinking.

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