NHL Referee Conundrum

Consistency is arguably the most important quality of a referee. It’s too bad the 2011 NHL playoffs have been mired by inconsistent reffing.

The new rules after the lockout were supposed to free the game up for the skill players of the league and they have done just that. No more ticky-tacky hooking and grabbing. The elite players were allowed to be elite players again.

The early rounds of this year’s playoffs were a different story. It went back to the old rules. They might as well have had the police out on the ice because you had to assault someone in order to get a penalty.

Fast forward to the third round and suddenly the game has switched back to the regular season. In fact, at times it has been worse than the regular season. Penalty after penalty being called as players are constantly marching in and out of the sin bin. A player losing an edge seems to be enough to warrant a tripping call.

The players have no idea what to do. First they can get away with murder and suddenly a tap on the shin is a penalty.

There has been no consistency among each crew and frankly I’m sick of it. You all should be too.

Honestly though, the consistency line should be drawn where they call it during the regular season. All the hooking, holding and tackling should be out of the game. Let’s not give the game back to the grinders.

I don’t mind all the penalties as long as that’s how each crew is calling every game. Players need to at least know how the game is going to be called.

The Nashville-Vancouver series featured bad hockey. Not only are the Predators one of the most boring teams in the NHL but their defensive style was catered to by the referees who decided to lock up their whistles and throw away the key.

The San Jose-Vancouver series, on the other hand, has been dominated by the referees. Game 4 had the Sharks receiving 5 penalties in the first 25 minutes while that was followed by 3 consecutive 5 on 3 power-plays for the Canucks. The difference is astounding between what we saw in the first couple rounds of the playoffs.

I guess the NHL is consistent in its own way though. Their remarkable ability to consistently waver on key issues is always quite impressive. I mean, if they can’t set a precedent with the oh so important problem of head shots then why should we expect any standardization with their refereeing?

Related: NHL Head Shots

I was ready to call conspiracy in the Chicago series and prior to the 3 consecutive 2 man advantages I was ready to call conspiracy in game 4 yesterday. Well, it looks more like a product of bad reffing.

The NHL is your typical deadbeat dad. For some reason you always expect something more from them even though you realize that will never get anything. I have no idea why I still expect change for the better.

The great extent of this mounting problem isn’t realized by most people. Colour commentators and analysts should not be content with what is happening on the ice. Laughing off bad/non-calls and on a rare occasion pointing out a mistake sure isn’t going to invoke any change.

For fans to realize the problem on the ice, the one’s calling the games need to make it their business to show what is wrong with the refereeing. Once an outcry comes from fans and analysts maybe the NHL might start to listen. Okay, that might be a pipe dream of mine but it still shouldn’t be alright for people to be oblivious to or satisfied with the officiating.

The NHL has enough trouble generating an American audience and this year’s inconsistent garbage we see from the referee’s is enough to turn the casual fan away from the game. Fans have to know that this isn’t how the game is always played.

Call a penalty when it is a penalty. Sounds simple enough right?

Don’t let them play or call an excessive amount of penalties. The rule book is there for a reason so how about we have everyone follow it for a change?

It will not only make the game better for the players but more importantly it will make the game better for the fans.

Update: It didn’t matter because the Canucks took game 5 and are off to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, I failed to mention in the article below that the way the referee’s still call the overtime period is absolutely insane. On top of a game that was refereed exactly opposite to game 4, the overtime period featured 4 blatant penalties of San Jose’s and 1 blantant penalty of Vancouver’s that were not called. 2 obvious high sticks and 3 trips that my 85 year Chinese Grandmother could have seen. This isn’t an anomaly for the NHL because when it comes to overtime the whistles are put away. These refs decided they didn’t want to “decide” the game like they did in game 4 but they decide the game just as much when they choose not to call those penalties. Call the game the way you call it during the regular season. Call the game the way that you called it in the 1st and 2nd period. They’re lucky that they were in Vancouver and it took 3 brutally missed calls to get the “refs you suck” chant out of the stuck-up, corporate crowd. This is not the way that the 3rd and overtime period should be called yet the referees continue to stick to their old ways. I said it below but I have to say it again. Enough is enough, this has to change.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Exorcising the Demons?

Joe Thornton celebrates after scoring the OT winner against the Kings in round 1

Art Ross, Hart and President Trophies have defined the career of Joe Thornton. For most players that would be a good thing.

Not for “no show.”

Thornton’s ability to pick apart and dissect defences around the league is his trademark. Threading the needle would be an understatement to describe what Joe Thornton does. At least during the regular season.

The playoffs, where legends are made, have been a different beast for Thornton. All the awards and accolades that Joe Thornton has received during the regular season have defined him because of his inability to duplicate that success in the playoffs.

Thornton is your typical underachiever. It may be cruel but he has rightfully been dubbed “No Show Joe.”

Despite consistently leading his teams into the playoffs as high seeds, Joe Thornton has never reached a Stanley Cup Final. Early exits at the hands of heavy underdogs is nothing new to him.

Even “No Show Joe’s” all San Jose line for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics failed to live up to expectations. They were the worst trio for Team Canada. Luckily, Canadian hockey has more depth than an Olympic sized swimming pool.

This year looks to be different though. Seeded 2nd in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks have jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the perennial Stanley Cup contending Red Wings.

Joe Thornton is finally doing his thing. Average Joe isn’t a bad thing for him.

Thornton scored the overtime winner against the L.A. Kings in game 6 of the first round that advanced his Sharks to the Conference Semi-Finals. It doesn’t matter that the puck fell into his lap off of a lucky bounce. All that matters is that he put the puck in the net.

Roberto Luongo said that the feeling of defeating the Blackhawks in game 7 was better than winning the gold medal. That feeling couldn’t have been too far off for Joe Thornton.

His career .74 points per game average in the playoffs is quite far off his career regular season average of 1.01 per game. However, it isn’t just the points average rather it has been his lack of presence in the big games. Thornton carries on his even keel demeanor, while other players turn their intensity up a notch or two. His play suffers because of it.

In the pivotal game 3 against the Red Wings on Wednesday, Joe Thornton had 3 assists in a 4-3 victory.

A lot of fans’ knees are jerking as they are already shedding the choke label off of Joe Thornton.

Not so fast there folks.

Thornton is going to have to do a lot more than sweep the Red Wings in round 2 to shed the label. He is also going to need more than taking down the Predators or Canucks in the Conference Finals, the spot where the Sharks were beaten by the Blackhawks in 2010.

Joe Thornton needs to win a Stanley Cup.

“No Show Joe” will live on unless the captain can finally lead his team to the Promised Land.

Championships shouldn’t define players in team sports. I’m a big believer in that. Hockey, basketball and football are all team games. You can’t win a championship all by yourself.

Joe Thornton is one of the exceptions.

“No Show” has played on some great teams. He has played for good coaches. He has played with outstanding players. The missing link to these championship runs hasn’t been a mystery.

Showing up this year will exorcise the demons for Joe Thornton. He doesn’t need to carry the Sharks on his back but a Stanley Cup victory would sure take the weight of the world off his shoulders.

Related: Rings Don’t Mean a Thing

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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