It’s Not a Hot Seat, But It Might Be Warming

586fb3b7-97df-4b89-bb64-1736dad5bae0_ORIGINALIt is always interesting to see who has read my stuff, or helped me promote it.  Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect most people to do that.  But there is the odd person who come along that give me good reason to expect that they’ll maybe check out some of my stuff or promote it.  This piece, probably not many people will read it or promote it.  Other stuff I do…those people might have damn good reason to back me so to speak.  Anyway, that’s pretty coded I know, but I couldn’t think of a good opening and wanted to bitch about that without getting myself into too much trouble.

 

I’ve had this thought since the start of the season, and it isn’t one that I’ve heard anywhere.  I’m sure if I got on a message board somewhere, fan boys will have made the suggestion.  But nowhere reputable.  That thought is, how long until we start hearing about Bob Hartley being on the hot seat?

 

On the surface, it’s WAY too early to talk that way.  Down the stretch in 2013 after Jay Feaster finally started rebuilding, he got his team to play pretty hard in the final 3 week or so of that season when it looked like they were going to be blown out every game after they dealt Iginla and Bouwmeester (I made A LOT of money on their initial misery).

 

2014, that continued.  Everyone entering that season was certain that team was a lock for 30th in the league.  They only finished 27th, but that was a pretty good accomplishment compared to what everyone believed they were headed for.

 

Then of course you had last season.  Outside of the Canuck and Oiler fans, everyone fell in love with that club.  Hartley was the Jack Adams winner and it really wasn’t close.  That team yet again was expected to finish 30th, and this time they made the freaking playoffs.  Ask an Oilers fan, that isn’t easy to do in this league, let alone the Western conference!  So Hartley really has done a great job in Calgary.

 

But now I’m looking at things, and I’m wondering…not if the axe is coming, but if we are going to start to hear about how the axe might be coming?

 

You have to look at some factors here.  First and foremost for me is that he was never Brian Burke’s guy.  He became Brian Burke’s guy, but Hartley was never hired by Burke, he was inherited by Burke.  And then he was obviously inherited by Brad Treliving as well.  I’m not saying they aren’t 100% in his corner, I have no clue whether they are or not.  But you have to assume that they aren’t 100% all in with him, simply because it’s so rare that a front office is with someone they didn’t hire.

 

Another thing that makes  me wonder with Hartley moving forward is both in Colorado and Atlanta he wore out his welcome in a big hurry.  The Avs under Hartley won a Cup, and lost in game 7 of the West finals every other season.  2 and a half months into the 02-03 season, he was gone.

 

In Atlanta, he brought them out of the gutter, and while he never won a playoff game and the division they won at the time was a complete joke, the fact is that he got them to be pretty competitive which is more than anyone else could say during the Thrashers time in Atlanta.  He took over in 03 and had the Thrashers playing great in the 2nd half of that season.  04 despite everything that went on with the Daniel Snyder tragedy they finished only 4 games under .500.  In 06 they couldn’t keep a goaltender healthy and still only missed the playoffs by 2 points.  Then in 07 they won the Southeast.  He did this working with total shit, let’s be honest about the teams he had.  Amazing coaching job…and he didn’t even last a MONTH in 07-08.

 

Add to all this, a guy with such a terrific track record coaching in the NHL wasn’t hired again until the 2012 offseason.  That’s…peculiar…is that right word?

 

So I’m wondering now with the Flames struggling if this is the beginning of the end in Calgary for Harts?  I wouldn’t, but then again I wouldn’t have axed him if I were Pierre Lacroix, and he did.  Nor if I were Don Waddell, and he did.  The Flames really haven’t been that different of a team this season from last.  You have to be honest about the bounces that team was getting last year, everything that could go right did go right.  And then obviously the goaltending was MUCH more consistent.  I mean the game last night isn’t the catalyst for this piece.  I’m well aware of the struggles under 5 different coaches in Anaheim (and to be fair to that stat, the Flames last win in Anaheim was actually in the 2006 playoffs, game 3 of that series).  And the Ducks put up 8, this is Nik Backstrom’s last hurrah in the league.  He was a guy who made sense for the Flames to take back in the David Jones deal because of the injuries the Flames have had in goal.

 

The team, at least when I’ve watched, is still playing hard and still look like they’re buying into the system.  They’ve just simply come back down to earth, as many expected them to do this season.

 

So when could it go from talk of the hot seat to actually being on the hot seat for Hartley?  I think the start of next season.  I’ll say they go into next season with Hartley behind the bench, and should the Flames struggle out the gate, he’ll be in trouble.  Brian Burke and Brad Treliving need to help him out by shoring up the goaltending situation.  When Kari Ramo emerged as the starter, this was a playoff contender.  Without, like any other team, things have been ugly.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Not an Excuse, a Fact

connor-mcdavid-twitterA few months ago I was listening to Oilers Now, as I normally do.  I don’t always agree with what Bob has to say, I feel like he’s too close to the team at times.  Other times I feel like there is a little too much wishful thinking that goes into his thoughts on how to improve the team.  But I still think he does a solid job and it’s a work schedule that I wouldn’t love and he seems to embrace.

 

Anyway, one day Craig Simpson started to lash out at Stauffer.  Bob for a few weeks in a row had been bringing up the Oilers injury situation, and Simpson basically had enough of hearing about the injury situation.  And Craig was right, it’s not an excuse for everything going poorly.  You have to fight through with what you have.  But at the same time, are we seriously going to pretend it shouldn’t impact a hockey club?

 

I don’t think anyone has accused me of being an Oilers apologist before, but I might sound like one today.

 

This is brought on by Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington, whom it likely isn’t a coincidence that he’s had it in a bit for the Oil since they won the Connor McDavid lottery.  Maybe I’m reaching with that, but this was the same guy who took great offence to Mike Babcock ending up with the Maple Leafs instead of the Sabres.  He isn’t too much of an apologist for the Sabres, but he doesn’t really hide who he has it in for and he seems to care about the Oil a LITTLE too much for a guy from Buffalo.

It isn’t the first time Mike has spoke out his ass.  Around the trade deadline I took him to task about this tweet:

There was too much idiocy to contend with, but something that I forgot to bring up at the time in hindsight was the Gaustad 1st was the 2012 draft, a draft which scouts literally advised their GM’s to trade their 1st round picks (Bob McKenzie stated this after the CHL prospects game that season) because the draft was so weak.

 

Now in being completely fair to the man, it’s not as though I have any proof he’s saying the tweet from last night in a negative form.  But having followed him for over a year now…I’m pretty safe in saying that’s how he means it.  And look, I’m not defending how the Oilers have been run, I’m not defending the kids who have come along before this season, I’m not defending the previous 5 seasons.  I’m going to defend this one season though that has the rest of the Canadian media and the American media piling on, it isn’t just Mike Harrington.

 

I pulled this yesterday from a site called mangameslost.com

 

1. The Toronto Maple Leafs (340), New Jersey devils (323), and Edmonton Oilers (323) have suffered the most man-games lost to injury. The New York Rangers (85) and Chicago Blackhawks (98) are the least injured teams. See Table 1 below for more rankings.

 

So the Leafs and Oilers are at the bottom of the league and they are 1st and 2nd in man games lost.  Jersey is tied with the Oil for 2nd, I would GUESS there injuries have piled up in the 2nd half, when there declined began.

 

But, so what?  That doesn’t mean that they have key guys going down, does it?  Well…

 

2. Edmonton (1st) and the Vancouver Canucks (2nd) face the greatest cumulative impact of injured forwards or defensemen by the IIT-skater metric. The Colorado Avalanche and LA Kings have faced the least impact due to injuries.

 

Again, we see 2 of the worst teams in the league.  Meanwhile the Kings are at the top of the Pacific, and the Avs are fighting for the final playoff spot in the West.  But it gets even better!

 

4. The greatest injury impact for a lost defenseman (by IIT-skater metric) is Oscar Klefbom (44 games missed to injury and his relatively high ATOI). See Table 2 below for more skater rankings.

5. For forwards, Connor McDavid’s 37 games injured leads all IIT-skater metrics for forwards.

 

Add to this, Klefbom is number 1 out of all skaters, McDavid is 4th, and Nugent-Hopkins is 10th.  So basically this is showing that the Oilers have been MASACARED by injuries this season!  Should this team be better than 30th?  I don’t know honestly because the injury situation is so bad that it would suggest they’re exactly where they should be.  I thought with good goaltending, McLellan in as head coach, and just simply the culture change that proven winners like Chiarelli and McLellan are I believed would rub off more than it has.  But people like Harrington act as though nothing has been done to change the misfortunes.

 

And this has been a lot more than McDavid and Klefbom missing half the year each.  Just recently, Brandon Davidson was emerging as the Oilers number 1 D-man, and then he went down with an ankle injury that has ended his season.  Eberle missed a month, RNH missed 6 weeks and if he has a concussion from the Connor Murphy hit last night he’ll likely be done for the year.  Let’s not act like this team has just been the same old, same old.  With good health this season, this team would at least be the top Canadian team, if not in the fight with Minny and Colorado for the final playoff spot in the West which isn’t saying too much, but people would definitely be talking about how they’re finally on the rise.

 

A ton of my stuff these days is aimed at the media for being so sloppy and piling on.  I fully admit I need to get over it better because in this day and age everyone has a platform (like me, I’m one of these idiots) and we can all get out our best thoughts and idea’s but also put out a lot of our worst thoughts and idea’s.  But I’ll never understand piling on.  That rattles me and I don’t think it ever won’t.  It just feels cheap, easy, cowardly, and in the case of a guy like Harrington…REALLY?  You cover the Sabres bud.  Let’s not pretend the Sabres are the better team between the two.  The Oilers are 2-0 against them, and the East is a JOKE.  So…glass houses Mike.

 

We all get so hung up in the old adage “we can’t use injuries as an excuse”.  Well, right, the team can’t.  We, as fans, or media, aren’t using it as an excuse if it’s a fact.  And I think I laid out some pretty damning evidence that it’s a fact with the 2016 Edmonton Oilers.

 

I said it a month ago and I’ll say it again, Peter Chiarelli has a great chance this summer to turn them into a playoff team next season.  He’s had a year now to examine the roster, he’s had a year now to get to know his head coach and figure out what’ll fit best with his system, he has cap space, most of the cap space is well used meaning he can get creative with the roster, it is a very good free agent class for the first time in a long time, and finally with McDavid, a new arena, proven GM and coach all in the fold it won’t be a tough sell for free agents or players with NTC’s.

 

Couple with all that…San Jose is reaching the end of their rope as a playoff team, Getzlaf/Perry/Kesler are about to be on the back 9 of their career’s, and the Kings face the same problem with a lot of cap tied up in guys like Brown, Gaborik, Carter, Greene, who are on the downside, not to mention the 1.57 mil for Mike Richards.  I’m not saying these teams are all going to fall off the map, but I am saying next season logic would dictate the door will be open for a team or 2 to rise up in the Pacific and make the playoffs.

 

So as much as it’s been a combination of shitty luck in Edmonton this season, it is looking VERY promising going into next season from where I’m sitting.  It just is a shame that they couldn’t have had a healthy season.

 

The rest of the hockey world should be smart enough to notice the shitty luck this team has had with injuries this season.  The Habs will miss the playoffs because the reigning Hart trophy winner has missed most of the season.  It’s a fact.  The Oilers are back in 30th because of so many key players missing so much time this season.  It’s a fact.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

 

 

If Scoring Goes Up, Interest Goes Up, Business Goes Up, Everyone Wins

8b10b428b410cc406dd958debd6b1ffcSo the other day I went off about the refs not just in the NHL, but the whole culture/mentality that goes with officiating in hockey.  It was GLORIOUS!  I should have wrote that one a long time ago.  The NHL specifically needs to get this cleaned up ASAP.  One of the benefits to this would be that it would help increase scoring.  But obviously other things are being discussed to increase scoring this week as well and I figured I may as well chime in on that as well because I know you can’t get enough of me.

 

So the goaltending equipment is obviously the big one.  I loved the segment Corey Hirsch did on it a few weeks back.  And I’m liking what I’m hearing from Kay Whitmore about this.  But….I’ll believe it when I see it.  First comment that I personally heard from a goaltender about this was Ryan Miller.  Talk about a guy who is worried.  He stuttered through the entire clip I seen and came up with really lame reasons as to why they shouldn’t rush to do this.  Some of it was logical, but it was pretty obvious he’s worried.

 

My worry is that you’ll get more goaltenders like Miller going to Don Fehr, and you know Fehr loves to fight with the league over anything he can.  The players outnumber the goalies, so I would HOPE that common sense takes over here and the PA realizes more goals and more action is what’s best for the sport.  Even if we get smaller equipment though, I’m fully expecting about a 5% decrease, not 20% like Hirsch suggested, which isn’t enough.

 

While they’re at it, could they PLEASE ban all white equipment?  I’ve hit on this a ton before, but I will again.  These guys are wearing all white to make themselves look bigger and if it didn’t have an affect, they wouldn’t do it.  We are seeing this season more goaltenders move away from it.  Corey Crawford, Scott Darling, Brian Elliott, Eddie Lack and most recently Jimmy Howard are wearing dark or gear and that’s how it should be.  I have suggested in the past that a 3 inch border before any white can be applied on the pads, glove and blocker, and 80% of the pads, glove and blocker have to be a dark or bright colour.  So for example, an Oilers goaltender could have primarily blue or orange gear, but not white.  A Flames goaltender could have black, red or even gold gear, but not white.  Will it have a BIG impact?  Probably not.  But it is another little edge that is easy to take away from the goaltenders.

 

I like what Mike Babcock said when asked about it.  When asked if it would help much Babcock said (paraphrasing because I can’t find the exact quote) “Nope.  The guys in net are still too big for the nets they’re guarding.”  And he’s right.

 

These nets were made for guys who are 5’8, 170.  Today, the smallest starter in the league is Jaroslav Halak who is 5’11, 180.  He and Jonas Enroth I BELIEVE are the only tendy’s in the league under 6’0.  Last year there were 4, but Dustin Tokarski and Anton Khudobin are both out of the NHL (both with Anaheim ironically).

 

Spare me your “messing with tradition” story.  Goaltenders have been “messing with tradition” for 15 seasons now by wearing the gear they wear.  Guys will be scoring on a bigger net than Gretzky did?  Right, and they’ll be scoring on goaltenders nearly twice as big and about five times quicker than Gretzky did.

 

I’m not advocating for nets to increase in size just yet.  Let’s shrink the equipment, let’s clean up the officiating to free up more skilled players, let’s try to come up with other changes that can be made first (maybe adjusting the PP rules).  But I’m definitely not against increasing the size of the nets.  Should it come to that, I would take the average size of a goaltender in 1985 or around that time, and increase the nets by the same percentage that the average size of a goaltender has increased to today.

 

As for those who say you then have to increase it at all levels and it’ll start to get expensive…why?  That has to be the dumbest argument against it I’ve heard.  You do it in the AHL, ECHL, and MAYBE you do it at the CHL and NCAA levels.  But you don’t HAVE to do it for the CHL or NCAA, and you don’t have to at all levels.  Different leagues have different sized ice, so they can also have different sized nets.  Should we increase the size of players, or speed, or shot power in lower levels of hockey so they are equivilant to the NHL too?  Things get tougher in pro hockey, so the nets can be that way too.  I don’t hear anyone bitching about there being different dimensions in baseball stadiums, so why are we so concerned with increasing the size of the nets?  Nobody is wanting them to be soccer size, just enough of an increase so that today’s goaltenders are as proportionate to them as they were 25-30 years ago.  And yes, I’m fully aware most of you disagree with this opinion.

 

So one more thing to hit on and that had been discussed at the GM meetings was the coach’s challenge.  A lot of people have a problem with it, yet the NHL isn’t changing it.  I have a solution.

 

The big problem those people have is with the chintzy ones that take forever.  The spirit of the rule was put in so that the obvious ones could get overturned.  Wednesday night in Edmonton there was an obvious one that took no time at all.

 

So what’s the solution to this?  Put a clock on it.  Refs have 1:00, or maybe 1:30 to look at it.  If they can’t establish that it’s offside or goaltender interference by then, times up.  It’s inconclusive, call on the ice stands.  Pretty simple.  And you only put the clock on coach’s challenges, that way normal replay can take the time to determine whether a puck was high sticked or kicked in.

 

It blows my mind that I can figure that out by giving it 5 minutes of thought, yet you watch, it’ll be 5 years of 10 minute reviews over whether or not a guys foot was on the ice or not on an offside call before the league finally comes to this realization.

 

I just don’t get why it isn’t important for this league to be constantly looking to improve their product.  Things have to get awful before they’ll do anything.  I’m sure I’ll be writing this piece for the remaining Bettman years, but I pray I don’t.

 

Clean it up fella’s!  Players putting wigs and capes on during the All-Star game won’t increase your fan base, a better on ice product will.

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Another Spring of Anticipating the Draft

NHL: NHL DraftMade you look.  Ok, so maybe that tweet was a BIT misleading, but now that you’re here…

 

Well that was fun to watch last night!  Sloppy at times, definitely still not a team who knows how to shut the opposition down in the 3rd, and the Blues aren’t playing to their capabilities right now without a doubt.  But they got over 2 massive mental hurdles.  One would be the PP didn’t just get 1, they got 5 (4 that counted).  The way they scored them too should give this crew a wakeup call.  Throwing the puck on net with traffic, that formula will never not work.  The other hurdle was simply beating the Blues.  The Blues have taken pleasure in pushing around the Oilers over the years, and last night the Oilers pushed back and you could tell the Blues weren’t expecting that.

 

This season might have been one of the most disappointing for Oiler fans over the last 10 years.  It’s not leaving them the most pissed off they’ve been, there have been plenty more than this one, but it’s right up there for disappointing.  The thing that nobody in the national media wants to acknowledge is the ridiculous amount of injuries that set this team back this season.  Eberle, McDavid, Klefbom, Nugent-Hopkins and now Davidson all missing significant time.  It’s only 5 players, but all 5 are very key players who’ll end up missing at least a month of action.  30th-27th or so is guaranteed yet again, and they still should be better then where they are.  But this time around it wasn’t as much about the team just being a joke (as much as the media elsewhere wants to maintain that to be the case) and a lot more of the team not staying healthy.  As I’ve said recently, it isn’t making an excuse for them, it’s a fact.

 

But it happened, so unfortunately for Oiler fans it’s time yet again to suck it up and look forward to what is coming.  I hit on why I think the rebuild is done as of this summer a few weeks ago.  Today I’m just going to jump the gun despite 9 games remaining and look at the draft.

 

Obviously it is possible, maybe this season more than ever, that they could move their 1st round pick.  It is a very odd year, because I don’t THINK I would move the pick unless they get the 1st overall.  I believe they can fill their holes by moving other pieces.  But if they do luck out yet again and get the top pick, the return that would bring would be incredible.

 

Picks 2-6 or 7 in this draft would give the Oilers a player that is better to build around then a kid like Eberle for example.  Bigger, faster, hasn’t been around for all the losing.  Eberle on his own maybe wouldn’t get them a top pairing D-man, but an Eberle package likely would.

 

So with that being said, I’ll give you my top 5.  Not for the league, but for the Oilers.

 

Auston Matthews – OBVIOUSLY.  I’m pretty sure I would trade down for a massive return, or trade out for what would also be a massive return.  He’s awesome, but the Oilers are more than set down the middle.  Draisaitl wouldn’t bring in an elite number 1 D-man.  From what some are saying, Matthews would bring back that guy +.  Side note, I’m starting to pull for the Oilers to get this pick, just piss off all the people crying about them possibly winning it.  This isn’t a team that has been intentionally tanking the last 6 seasons.  They aren’t the 76ers.  It’s disgusting and pathetic how bad they’ve been.  But if you’re concerned about this, you’re probably a massive tool.  And yes, I’m fully aware that a lot of people in hockey are concerned about this.

 

Patrik Laine – I completely disagree with the notion that the big, highly skilled power forward has massive value in the NHL.  These guys never have the impact on a team that fans and media want to believe they do.  But this team needs size, could use more speed, and REALLY needs a RH bomb on the PP and that is what Laine brings.  He also is willing to engage physically which we all know the Oil have been desperate for more of.  You really couldn’t find a type of player who would be a better fit with McDavid than Laine.

 

Jakob Chychrun – 2nd in my rankings, but 3rd for me from an Oilers perspective because with Davidson emerging this season, the great year they’ve had with a lot of their kids (Oesterle, Jones, Bear, Lagesson, Paigin, all had impressive seasons), and the fact that it does look like they’ll finally be able to acquire that big time top pairing D-man they’ve needed forever.  But even if that is the case, D-men are so valuable right now that you simply can never have enough in the system.  You can’t make a trade these days, unless you have a good young D-man.  Then GM’s are knocking down your door.

 

Matthew Tkachuk – I don’t think Tkachuk is better than Puljujarvi.  But Tkachuk fits the Oilers better than Puljujarvi does.  He brings serious grit to the table and he doesn’t need the puck on his stick like Puljujarvi does.  If you’re looking for a winger to play long term with McDavid, I’m not sure Puljujarvi would fit, much like Taylor Hall doesn’t fit with him.  I have very little doubt Tkachuk’s game would be a terrific compliment to McDavid.

 

Jesse Puljujarvi – I broke him down, now allow me to build him back up!  It isn’t as though I don’t like the kid.  I’m probably going to be one of his biggest fans.  I compared him to Blake Wheeler in my rankings, but another guy who comes to mind is Marian Hossa.  If he becomes that type of 200 foot player, he’ll be one of the top wingers in the game.  But again, his style is that he loves to pack the puck and create, which is what McDavid does.  There wouldn’t be any reason to be upset should the Oilers take him, but when talking about the top 5 kids for this team, that’s what separates him and knocks him down to 5th for my liking.

 

The one thing I definitely wouldn’t do is put any of these kids in the NHL next season, outside of taking Matthews.  Laine and Puljujarvi can both either play another season in Finland or in the AHL if they choose.  Zero need to plug them in.  Tkachuk would benefit from going back to London and lead a Knights team that will lose Dvorak and Marner next season.  And even though Chychrun is very physically mature, another season under Derian Hatcher in Sarnia won’t hurt at all.  If the Fins had to go back to the CHL, then it’s different for them.  But they don’t.

 

If they do look to move the pick, I sure hope it isn’t the disaster the Griffin Reinhart trade was last year.  I just can’t buy that move wasn’t all done by Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson, Bob Green, and all the Reinhart champions that have remained in the organization.  My guess is they had done the leg work, Chiarelli put his faith in them and they did what they did while running the show…they failed.  I’m not giving up on Reinhart at all, and he’ll play in the league.  But that trade was awful from the second it was announced.

 

They needed a D-man, but they didn’t need a young, LH shooting D-man with heavy feet and low offensive upside.  To trade a mid 1st and a high 2nd in what might go down as one of the best drafts ever for a kid who basically didn’t fit, it was absurd.  And has been made worse by the fact that Davidson and Oesterle have passed him on the depth chart.  It sure would be nice to have a Barzal, or Connor, or Eriksson-Ek, or Samsonov, or Chabot, to go with a Stephens, or Dermott, or Carlo, or Meloche.  You wouldn’t have to have them on the roster anytime soon, or they could be trade bait (better bait than Reinhart will be).  Why is it that me, a low end blogger who isn’t even analytically a good rec hockey player despite seeing soft minutes most nights could see this disaster coming a mile away and they couldn’t?

 

Anyway, much like this season, it is all in the past and this is the reality for Oiler fans.  It is going to be an intriguing offseason, especially draft night.  Could be some vital pieces added to the puzzle that night, and should they keep the pick they’ll be getting a kid who’ll be a terrific fit for the type of team they’re trying to build.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Officially Awful

capture1I’m hurting this week.  Grinded out watching a lot of hockey this weekend, ended up sleeping in my truck a few nights (which isn’t too different from most Albertans these days), and now I’m paying for it with a cold.  And like anyone, my cold is WAY worse than any cold you’ve ever had, so let’s get #prayforsoups and #bringsoupforsoups trending.

 

It is a topic I’ve wanted to hit on for a while, and I finally reached my breaking point lately on officiating in hockey.  With goaltending equipment being a hot topic at the GM meetings this week, that’s great.  But how overdue is this?  And it’s just another example of how awful this league is run.  They’ve talked about reducing goaltending equipment for 15 years now and done next to nothing.  Well they’ve also talked about cleaning up the way the game is officiating for even longer, and yet here we are, with scoring down and not coincidentally the game being horribly officiated.

 

This isn’t a problem limited to the NHL, you see it at all levels of hockey with referees.

 

Over the weekend my nephews were playing in their playoffs/provincial qualifying tournament.  In a do or die game, my nephew Easton got a tripping penalty and wasn’t happy about it.  Slammed his stick, let the ref know how he felt.  The ref went into the box and had a talk with him.  I still haven’t asked Easton what was said, but he didn’t get anything extra for unsportsmanlike conduct.  2 shifts after the penalty expired, Easton made a nice, very clean hit…and got another penalty for a hit to the head.  Completely gutless by the ref, and it’s completely gutless by any ref who pulls this shit and you see it all the time.  If he wanted to give Easton extra, do it in the moment.  If you didn’t do it in the moment, then have some integrity and let it go!  This is like saying you’re good with a guy after a fight and then sucker punching him once he turns his back.  And this is common, and by some people accepted in hockey.  No.  You have the unsportsmanlike rule in hockey for a reason.  If someone goes too far arguing a call, then give them the extra in the moment.  If not, then be a man, it’s done.  Your job is to be unbiased while calling a game, not to get someone back because you have an agenda with them.

 

Taylor Hall is a player who has to put up with this shit all the time.  Hall shouldn’t beak off to the refs like he has over the years.  But if he should get an extra 2 or 10, then give it to him.  Don’t start looking the other way on calls involving him!  These jackasses are seriously putting a target on a players back and then claiming you’re calling a fair game?!  You can cry all you want about players, coaches, GM’s, fans, media all being too hard on you.  Hey, that’s what you’re getting paid for.  Part of your job is to ignore that.  “They’re only human” is what someone will say.  They are, but human’s have the ability to compartmentalize and let stuff go and it’s something you have to learn to do in that position.  You don’t like it, don’t do it.

 

Not to make this all about the Oilers, but part of the reason this is being written is because of a call that didn’t happen Monday night.  Oilers were on the pp and Connor McDavid is about to be in all alone, and he is very clearly tripped.  No call.  Is this just a one off?  Well, the Oilers have had a TOTAL…TOTAL…of 1:06 of a 5 on 3 advantage this season.  Ironically, Detroit of all teams only has 1 second more, although they do have one more 5 on 3 chance this season.  The Oilers only have had 2 chances.  5 on 3’s in the league have dropped by half since 2010.  Now I’m not looking to be a homer here and suggest that the Oilers deserve more chances than other teams, but I can think of 2 times in the last month that they blatantly didn’t receive 5 on 3 chances.  Why are refs so unwilling to give teams 5 on 3’s?  Don’t want to increase goal scoring?  They feel as though it is too harsh of a punishment to teams?  Good gawd, just call the f****** game.

 

Maybe my favourite non call in the league right now is slashing, specifically when it happens on a stick.  A player can hack a stick all day long, and apparently it’s fine.  But when the stick breaks, then it’s a penalty.  Why?  Why would it be fine to do the exact same act and be penalized only once a stick breaks in half?  Does the league REALLY need to put in a rule called slashing the stick, just like they’ve had to put in holding the stick and obstruction hooking/holding/tripping over the years before these guys can figure out it needs to be called?

 

Then you have the veteran calls which is something that exists in most sports, but in hockey veteran teams get a disgusting amount of key calls late from the refs.  Always have.  Ask a fan of any of the other 29 teams how playing Detroit is.  It isn’t as though the Wings get a larger number of calls, they don’t.  But for about 17 seasons now they’ve had the oldest team in the league, and I’m sure just coincidentally…they get A LOT of calls in their favour, whether it’s a non call on one of their players, or a beneficial call at a key moment.

 

Meanwhile there is this big wonder why scoring is down in the NHL.  Well…in 05-06 coming out of the lockout, the NHL finally made a serious attempt to get their officials to call the game by the book and they stuck with it.  The lowest amount of  PP’s that season, the Caps got 408 chances.  Last year, Detroit led the league in PP opportunities…with OVER 100 less than that.  294.  I went through the numbers on the PP opportunities since 06, and they’ve done nothing but drop every season.  No shock, I know.  And in fairness a bit of that would be players adjusting to the way the game changed back then.  But this league ACTUALLY wonders why scoring is down when it’s brand new superstar is tripped on a potential breakaway and nothing is called?  The fans paid to see McDavid do his thing, not to see a Predators penalty killer trip him and refuse to call it because a 5 on 3 would be just too big of a hole to put them in.

 

Dave Hodge brought up officials the other day on The Reporters, giving a “thumbs down” to trying to help refs get the calls right in sports.  He brought up the CFL wanting to have an “eye in the sky” ref so to speak.  That’s a GREAT idea, especially for hockey where they need all the ice they can get out there.  Yet Dave apparently doesn’t enjoy things like evolving and embracing technology.  But why couldn’t you have someone upstairs, in one officials ear the entire game letting him know about things being missed?  Why can’t you make a call during a stoppage on something that got missed during the play?  Something gets missed and a team scores?  Well the goal still counts, but the penalty can be called after the fact.  Why not?  I mean I know why Hodge doesn’t want this, Dave is probably still pissed they go with lights in the arena rather than candles, but for those of us living in 2016, why can’t that be something that is at least explored?  Meanwhile at the GM meetings, this isn’t a topic.  Overreacting to a fluke that happened in a draft lottery is, but actually fixing and improving the game isn’t.

 

I’m kind of all over the map here and I apologize for that, but there are so many things that have pissed me off of late about officiating in hockey, and here is something else.

 

I’m sure someone will say I’m being far too harsh on the league and on the refs.  But it’s hard for me to take it easy on guys who bitch and moan about Dennis Wideman’s suspension reduced after he missed 19 games and is still docked 10 games pay for an incident in which nobody has ANY proof at all that Wideman intentionally hit linesman Don Henderson.  And why in the hell would he go after a LINESMAN?  Bruce Arthur on Monday called it a crosscheck, like he was Roman Hamrlik on Theo Fleury in the 02 Olympics.  Are you kidding me???  Wideman braces himself at the last second and they collide.  If you have played hockey, you know that.  Most people, and most of the media, decided to throw logic out the window in this case and simply assume the worst of a guy who has bounced around the league because he is too soft of a player.  A guy who could be up for the Lady Byng some years.

 

Henderson had the same thing happen in Vancouver with Yannick Weber this preseason.  Yet Wideman still had to miss 19 games, docked 10 games pay, and these guys still bitch and moan that it’s not enough?  Look at the Weber hit here and tell me his follow through isn’t pretty damn similar to Wideman’s.  Yet did Weber get anything?  No, cause it clearly wasn’t intentional.

WEIRD how similar that hit looks to the Wideman hit.  No doubt on the Weber one that Henderson gets caught not paying attention, where Wideman was more at fault on his.  But the hit is almost identical….because they both are bracing themselves for a collision that they weren’t expecting.  I’m not saying Wideman shouldn’t have got anything, you have to do something to let the players know even if it is accidental that it needs to be avoided.  But 19 games missed, 10 games docked pay was ridiculous.

 

People want to say “well he went right back out”.  Well yes, and that’s on the Flames training staff.  A massive f*** up, but a different issue.  Wideman is clearly hurt coming off the ice, and he’s clearly still hurting once he’s on the bench.  He simply wasn’t paying attention to Henderson or the play coming back up the ice.  Yet he gets 19 games.  “You have to protect the officials!!!”  Totally agree.  But…jackass…is this an epidemic?  Or is this something that happens once a year or so?  This isn’t like getting rid of head shots because too many concussions are happening.  This is a MASSIVE overreaction to something that looked bad from 1 camera angle where you couldn’t tell whether or not the player noticed the linesman coming.

 

Why in sports do we love to argue for the exception to the rule?  In any other walk of life, we never point out the exception to the rule.  Yet in sports, we LOVE to point out the exception to the rule and make the case for it.  This season I wouldn’t bet on David Price to be successful pitching in Fenway Park.  Yet the first thing someone would say to that is “Jon Lester!!!”  For every Jon Lester, there have been 25 lefties fail miserably in that park, but the exception to the rule is the first place most would go.

 

Anyway, I should have done a separate blog on that and need to get back on track and wrap this up.

 

You always hear “they’re letting them play” when things get rough and “they’re letting the players decide it”.  Well that’s nice, but then when a puck goes over the glass or there are too many men on the ice or a stick accidentally clips a player in the face, they’ll call it.  Soooooo why is that called, yet blatant trips, slashes, holds and hooks on scoring chances are allowed at certain points of the game?  Just do your job and call the f****** game.  Quit going the way of MLB umpires and getting drunk with power, essentially making it up as you go along.

 

There are times where you need to let up in a game, no doubt.  But that has gone from the last 1 or 2 minutes to every PP, the last 10 minutes of a game, when someone gets a scoring chance, it’s just become horrific.  And in the playoffs it’ll likely be worse.  How can the league be so terribly run that they can’t get their officiating under control?  Well, how can the league be so terribly run that they can’t get goaltending equipment under control?

 

I don’t expect this problem to be solved anytime soon.  Too many dinosaurs calling the shots on these types of issues and they take forever to come to an actual realization that things need to change.  And I have zero doubt that these are all great guys officiating in the NHL.  This isn’t meant to attack them as people.  And it isn’t the case with all refs, but it’s a lot of them.  This is meant to attack the NHL and the culture/mentality of officiating in general.  Things are really getting out of hand.

 

Just like the goaltending equipment, officiating needs to change for the better of not just the NHL, but for the game.

 

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