The approach to NHL officiating will not change until the gatekeepers do, and neither will trust in the system. If the same people who have been overseeing the operation for years and years, if the Colin Campbell’s and Stephen Walkom’s of the hockey world are the ones charged with conducting internal reviews and charting the course, the standards will remain indecipherable.
When, for example, Edmonton’s Mike Smith surrenders a soft one, do we all add the disclaimer, “But being an NHL goaltender is a hard job?” Or, if per chance Philipp Grubauer yields another marginal goal, does the Seattle netminder defend himself by invoking the, “I bet you couldn’t have made that save” card?
Of course not. Yet every critic of NHL officiating is met with these absurd disconnects. Flying a commercial airplane is probably a pretty hard job, but we do not excuse errors in the cockpit by citing the degree of difficulty of being a pilot, do we? If an inedible meal is delivered to your restaurant table, do you smile, chew and swallow rather than returning it to the kitchen because, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t have been able to do as good of a job?
If the demands of officiating have become too difficult, then the methodology must be changed. And it must be changed by those who have no stake in maintaining the status quo and by those who are willing to start with a blank screen. What makes sense at this stage of the NHL’s evolution as a sport and as an entertainment product?
This should be a job for the joint NHL-NHLPA competition committee, if in fact it actually existed in more than theory and was anything more than a rubber stamp for the relatively minor rules changes and interpretations recommended by the Board.
It is obvious just about every night how badly the Devils season has been damaged by inferior goaltending. But even while injury replacements Nico Daws and Jon Gillies try and do their best, even while over their heads, there is no rational explanation for general manager Tom Fitzgerald’s refusal to bulk up the position in the face of the flurries of bad goals that have undermined his very young team’s confidence.
When you cite a team that is less than the sum of its parts, you are citing the Devils several years running.
Tom Wilson must be so proud that he was able to beat up Brendan Smith at the beginning of last week after finally going him into a fight just over a month after the Carolina defenseman had suffered a fractured skull while blocking Danton Heinen’s shot below the left ear .
And what Smith, the former Ranger whose issues with Wilson track back to last May’s incident involving Artemi Panarin, was doing fighting under those conditions is anyone’s guess. Here’s a guess: the code.
There was the time back in 1997 when Shane Churla had been forbidden by the Rangers to fight after the enforcer had sustained a broken orbital bone in a previous confrontation. Churla became frustrated by the restriction and in fact lashed out at those supporting it. He was embarrassed by the whole thing.
But No. 22, of course, eventually did fight, and was bloodied in a particularly notorious bout around Christmas by Hartford’s Stu Grimson, who restrained himself and behaved himself with honor in a manner alien to Wilson.
And this about the code: The Avalanche escaped calamity when Nathan MacKinnon avoided injury after challenging and fighting Matt Dumba after the Minnesota defenseman’s huge, legal hit laid out an unsuspecting Mikko Rantanen as he carried the puck into the zone. There was no instigator penalty called even as it fit the rulebook definition. Of course not. Walkom would be happy to explain it to you.
I guess this is the code, too: If you are as talented as Trevor Zegras and don’t mind becoming one of the faces — with Jack Hughes, for sure — of NHL new-age skill, then you should be prepared to be crosschecked for no reason by a neanderthal like Jay Beagle and hear from some television analyst how you’d better be prepared to be punched in the mouth, the way Troy Terry was when he attempted to come to his teammate’s aid.
“You want to skill it up?” Arizona’s alleged analyst, Tyson Nash, said in the final minutes of the Ducks’ 5-0 victory on Friday. “Then you’d better be prepared to be punched in the mouth.”
That’s just what every parent in the world whose Squirt- and Pee Wee-aged child is on the ice working on The Michigan wants to hear.
Rating the best back-to-back first-overalls: 1. Alex Ovechkin (2004)/Sidney Crosby (2005); 2. Gilbert Perreault (1970)/Guy Lafleur (1971); 3. Connor McDavid (2015)/Auston Matthews (2016); 4. Mario Lemieux (1984)/Wendel Clark (1985); 5. Joe Thornton (1997)/Vincent Lecavalier (1998); 6. Patrick Kane (2007)/Steven Stamkos (2008); 7. Mike Modano (1988)/Mats Sundin (1989); 8. Rick Nash (2002)/Marc-Andre Fleury (2003); 9. Steven Stamkos (2008)/John Tavares (2009); 10. Dale McCourt (1977)/Bobby Smith (1978).
Finally, if they’re not even going to call an instigator penalty on Will Smith for that slap on Chris Rock, then why have the rule?