The other night on social media I quipped that the NHL Officials need a summer league. Like half a dozen other off the cuff mutterings, the more I think of it, the more sense it makes. This was in reaction to the utterly putrid nature of calls in the Winnipeg Jets versus Boston Bruins game. The general state of officiating in the NHL has been bad for two or three years. This year it’s been so bad it’s ceased to be funny or excusable in anyway.

The primary functions of the bootcamp would be:

  • Evaluating and grading all officials.
  • Correcting failures of positioning, and practice
  • Evaluating potential additions to the officiating roster.

The question is of course how to do this. For me, a combination of players who are AHL and NHL free agents, players from other professional leagues wanting to be scouted by NHL teams and players recovering from injuries would make up the bulk of the players. College and major junior free agents could be added as well. A case can even be made for having a division of NAHL, USHL and similar age players present who would have a slightly slower pace and allow the officials the most time to evaluate plays. For maximum similarity to the NHL and AHL season, when the next CBA is negotiated, some players might be required to appear after certain levels of discipline.

With two to three games being played a day, and a given official working all the games, one day, they could then be critiqued with extensive video coverage of what they did right and wrong by trainers the very next day, and given a full day of recovery before being tasked with putting changes into play. Sounds exhausting? That’s part of the point. Like the players, officials work a long season. Sometimes the density of games is high or the travel is wretched. Any linesman or referee who can go through four days in six of three games a day and be better at the end than the beginning should be able to thrive in the regular season.

When to do it? Starting it the second week of April is one approach, or the second week of July when players are officially out of contract. Make it a six or so week training session. You can double duty by field testing proposed rule changes in the latter stages once the officials are having more clean games that putrid. Will the NHL adopt a fix like this? Unlikely. Whatever they do, they need to bring more accountability to the position, and cease covering for officials who just plain screw up by the numbers.

This afternoon I had a discussion with a hockey fan who believes the Boston Bruins are tanking. Not just for this year, but for next year as well. I’m not saying I believe this idea, but with all the evidence it is certainly possible.

The Evidence:

  1. No one in the NHL, CHL, USHL, SPHL, AHL or anywhere else in first world hockey thinks that Bruce Cassidy is a better coach than Claude Julien.
  2. The resigning of John-Michael Liles and allowing him to play so much.
  3. The signing of David Backes who five years ago would have been the perfect pickup, but who now is only questionable without being outright wrong.
  4. Absolutely no upgrades at defense which many thought was their biggest need coming into the season.
  5. No additional scoring forwards
  6. Riley Nash was “added” to a team trying to get into the playoffs, when he couldn’t even stay in the NHL in an organization that wanted to be seen on the same page of the standings as the playoff teams.
  7. Allowing Jack Adams winning, Stanley Cup winning, World Cup winning Claude Julien, who knows any of the home grown players, and most of the rest of the roster better than anyone else in the league from having coached them for so long, go to the other half of the greatest rivalry in North American sports.
  8. Sliding a rookie defensemen onto the ice with Zdeno Chara to play against the best players on the other team.
  9. Failure to bury Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes in the minors or otherwise remove them from the roster to allow more talented forwards to fill the roster.
  10. Signing Anton Khudobin, who when healthy is a solid netminder to a two year deal, and who also hasn’t been healthy more than two months since the end of his first tenure in Boston.
  11. The entire fourth line. Seriously, Tim Schaller? Did marketing pick him because ratings were down in NH? Dominic Moore is, possibly, an accidental exception given that he’s having an above average goal scoring season. Or maybe he’s just in Boston because he’s a Harvard guy? Colton Hargrove, Noel Acciari, Austin Czarnik, and others could have done the job as well, and with more cap space left over to address very real needs in the theoretical top nine
  12. The fact that nobody is talking about this years draft, but that name for next year are coming up.

So here’s how this theoretical Rick-Rolling works: The Bruins were bafflingly in a playoff spot 50 plus games into the season, and that needs to change. Not just so the team has better draft position this year, but so there are lower expectations for next year when among other things the no movement clause on Rask’s contract becomes an NTC. Remember, this is Rask’s fourth straight year of sv% decline, and according to is a below average goalie already according to GSAA.

Also, for this theory to work you probably have to believe what 29 (going on 30) other NHL teams have thought of Bruce Cassidy for more than a decade; That he’s not a good NHL coach, assuming he’s one at all. He has never won at any level, when he was given the bums rush from Washington he belly flopped into the OHL. In his last 10 seasons as a head coach in the AHL, OHL, and NHL he as won just three rounds of playoff hockey. For comparison Ted Nolan who is not employed as an NHL coach right now won championships in both the OHL and QMJHL, and won a Jack Adams award for best NHL coach. That’s a stark comparison, and one would think if you’re trying to win, you take (or keep) a guy who has won, and who given the trends in the NHL, has done so with young players versus not at all.

So given that the Bruins are lacking top draft picks this season. What happens if they trade out of this years draft? What happens if they trade this years pieces for picks in the seemingly stronger 2018 draft class? They get high picks, and underdog status in the following season. Boston, all of New England loves an underdog. And in sports nothing, not even winning is sexier than hope. We know Sweeney loves draft picks. We saw him take three first round picks in a row in the low teens instead of trading even one of them to improve the team now. That’s unprecedented in the modern era. Think of trading one or more of those picks and bringing in Trouba or Dumba, but no, not the Sweeney way.

If you truly believe the Boston Bruins front office covets young men like Rasmus Dahlin or David Levin, or Joe Veleno and they might make people forget a couple bad seasons if they laced up and lit up in Black and Gold, I think it’s safe to say this idea might not be pure vapor. When you remember that there are articles and posts from people in the know pegging players at the top of the 2018 draft going back to more than 18 months before the draft, and look at other drafts where that happened like say in the 2009 draft one begins to wonder why the fan I spoke to had Rick Astley on the brain.

It’s that time again gentle readers. We are at the beginning of a new epoch in the careers a couple hundred hopeful young men. Two hundred and ten of them will be drafted in Philadelphia. Many will be present, some will go high and hard, some will fall, and others will splash into the pool of ignominy, much like enthusiastic participants of this here drinking game.

To play along you will need three different beverages, and of course the ability to see and hear the draft.

Beverage 1:

Take one sip:

  • a current NHL player is shown on the screen.
  • a coach is mentioned as being new in his current position.
  • a prospect is said to have leadership qualities.
  • the combine is mentioned.
  • an NHL or team executive is shown and their playing career is mentioned
  • a picture of Philadelphia that has nothing to do with hockey is shown.
  • A team makes a dramatic pause in the middle of their selection.

Take two sips:

  • A prospect is selected and they stop to hug, high five or shake hands with more than five people.
  • A trade of players you’ve never heard of occurs.
  • A team trades for a first or second round pick in next years draft.
  • pictures or video is shown of a former NHL player
  • Free agency coverage is mentioned.
  • each time a place or team is referred to as a “X factory” (goalie, defense-man, NHL draftee…)
  • a prospect is called “coachable”
  • two or more NHL players are mentioned as having played on the same Junior or College team.


Beverage 2:

Take one sip :

  • A team representative mentions addressing a need.
  • how long a draftee is away from being an NHL player is discussed.
  • A franchise is mentioned as being in a rebuilding mode.
  • More than four representatives of a team go up on stage to announce a pick.
  • A “top 10” prospect is shown before his name is called.
  • a prospect is asked who they model their game on.

Take two sips:

  • the Flyers fans in attendance fail to loudly boo a rival teams representatives.
  • Flyers GM Hextall appears on stage or screen and doesn’t get a standing ovation from local fans.
  • someone speculates on “the Russian factor” of where a prospect has or will be taken.
  • A general manager pronounces themselves happy or satisfied with the draft.
  • Craig Button or Bob McKenzie express surprise at where a player was drafted.
  • Whenever someone is asked about changes to their position or the team.


Beverage 3:

Take two sips

  • a player is drafted that is related to one or more current or past NHL players.
  • a player is drafted and is related to one or more NON-hockey professional athletes.
  • a baffling trade of NHL players is announced.
  • a team trades out of the first round.
  • anytime two players in a row are taken from any league other than the OHL.
  • a prospect is shown in their jersey and it looks like a little kid wearing his dad’s jersey.


Triple Deke, when ever an item on the list happens, take one sip of each beverage.

  • A player is drafted five or more spots above where they were projected to go.
  • A general manager says “we really liked (player’s name) and…”
  • a coaching vacancy is mentioned.
  • a player falls more than 12 spots below where they were projected to go.
  • the number of times a team has drafted in a particular range in the last decade is mentioned.
  • two or more OHL players are drafted in a row.
  • anytime a player who makes more than four million a year is traded.
  • video of Ron Hextall playing is shown (one bonus sip if footage includes a fight.)


Please remember neither PuckSage, the NHL, your internet service provider, you fourth grade teacher, first crush, last crush, the monsters under your bed, and the voices in your head and or anyone else you might want to blame for any stupid things that happen after you take the dubious step of taking part in the drinking game. Please keep PuckSage updated with those stupid things if you somehow retain the ability. Comments here or tweets to @PuckSage will be very entertaining, but do not signify anyone or anything condones your deleterious actions, and just as a friendly reminder there is no delete option for anything that makes it onto the internet.


This summer I’m looking for a few guest writers. Anyone launching a new hockey blog or with a current one is welcome. Ideally I’m looking for a three to four posts per person between June and September. Any level of hockey, in North America, Europe, or elsewhere. English only, sorry I’d hate to have content on my blog I couldn’t read.


@DominicTiano does not have enough followers. Fix that.

He’s one of my go to sources for OHL player info and the NHL entry draft, a great follow and unlike someone I could name doesn’t tweet a hundred times a day

Not that I’m a bitter Bruins fan but I’d like to thank the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a memorable night of hockey Saturday that came at the expense of the Washington Capitals.

The baby Pens defeated Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, in a thrilling series-clinching game 5 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wikes-Barre, Pa. last night. The Penguins scored two second period goals and survived a furious third period rally by the Bears to win 2-1, and advance to the second round of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.

Last night was quite the experience for this Bruin fan in Penguin territory. Given the circumstances, a winner-takes-the series game 5 between two regional rivals, of course last night was going to be intense.

I’ve attended AHL games in seven cities and there’s no question, Wilkes-Barre has the loudest and most passionate fan base that I’ve encountered. [Insert complaints here.]

For nearly two periods I listened to anxious Pens fans scream and mutter under their breaths and squirm as the first round’s final game inched forward without a goal. It’s cliché but yes, the tension was palpable.

Penguins forward Cal O’Reilly scored at 17:31 of the second and the arena exploded. We were still celebrating when Zach Sill scored a softie seven seconds later on Bears goalie Dany Sabourin, a former Providence Bruin and WBS Penguin who backed up Braden Holtby early in the Bs/Caps series.


The Penguins handed out glossy paper (about letter size) that was folded-up like a fan and pounded constantly during the game. The paper was sturdy but many ended up in shreds as Pens fans nervously clutched them, slapped them against seats and the glass and tore them at game’s end.

You want passionate? Their mascot, Tux, sported a black leather vest that looks like something he stole from a Hells Angels biker. Like all good mascots, Tux does his usual zany things but there was almost something menacing in how badly he beat on a stuffed bear and how much the crowd enjoyed it. Tux also wasn’t bashful about driving an off road utility vehicle to center ice between periods and doing a bunch of donuts.

They also pass around a wooden or plastic garbage-can sized Penguin during games, which is an arena tradition that further fires up the crowd.

Surprisingly, the Penguins rank in the bottom third of AHL playoff attendance this year (averaging 3,501 per game compared to a league average of 4,845). It was noticed as there was a three-seat gap between me and a super fan to my left in the lower bowl.

Even with the empty seats, last night was beyond expectation. Loud. Fun even for a diehard Bruins fan. A compelling AHL playoff game.

Watching the Penguins defeat Washington’s AHL affiliate brought a small measure of satisfaction, though I am still stinging from my NHL team’s premature playoff defeat.

Regardless of your rooting interests, if you’re a serious hockey fan and you pass through Pennsylvania, then a stop in Wilkes-Barre is a must.

BIO- Justin Walden blogs about the business of minor league and college hockey at Follow him on Twitter, @justwalden.



I’m a little confused. None of these fans picked out of the pictures I took at camp last fall, and at the parade in about 45 seconds seem harried or worried. I’ve been going to Bruins games since before Roltson’s first stop in the Hub and never encountered a single problem. Not at games. Not at bars in the area. Not on the T before or after games. Not even from the always charming visiting fans from Montreal and Philadelphia. Was something inappropriate said? Possible, how many of those were real fans of the team or even people who live in the area? How many of those social media accounts were created by other fan bases specifically to stir up trouble? Non story, move on.

Every year we hear the same thing: The playoff system is broken! (Not My)Team only got 1st round home ice for winning their division but (insert relevant number) teams were better. (Not My)Team shouldn’t have home ice just for winning the division, (insert shrill rant that sounds like it came from a four year old about 15 minutes after Mom should have put them to bed about fairness) this other (Possibly My)Team should have home ice.  Continue onto the “geographic divisions are obsolete” discussion and you’ve seen every possible post on why the current system needs to go that isn’t actually worth reading.

The only reason to scrap the current playoff system that makes sense in the dollars way is to either A: expand the number of teams in it or 2: add more games D: introduce a new element that gets more people to watch without alienating the core audience. That’s it. I’m only in favor of a fraction of those, but I’ll let you guess which ones.

Divisions may be superficially geographic in fact they are. And the playoff races are not entirely based on ice level vents. But they haven’t been since the NHL expanded. They are business designations. The NHL like every other major sporting league sets them up to benefit the business as a whole. The Southeast division is comprised entirely of teams with growth potential. They can all spend 25% more than the salary cap floor and stand a good chance of still playing games that mean something in March. The Northeast division is comprised of teams where the home crowds know hockey and bleed their teams colors, and will even support them (to a varying degree) when they are bad with the expectation they won’t ever cry poor mouth and throw a bunch of jabronis on the ice.

The central division is essentially two really big cities with hockey in the blood who are close enough to help fill the stands to other teams in the market. It’s not hard to figure out. It’s not like trying to figure out what idiocy kept the owners of the Thrashers from ever putting the damn good players they had over the top with a little help. It isn’t like trying to figure out a way for Martin Havlat or Rick Dipietro to reach even a normal level of durability. It just takes the realization that the NHL is a business, and as a collective they do better if more teams are in the races longer, selling more concessions and getting more eye-prints on screens.

So don’t blame (Not Your)Team or even the system for being “unfair”, it’s real life not a childrens game. The NHL exists to make money, not be some 11th century morality play on ice.

It’s been months since the last drinking game here at PuckSage, I’m sure your liver transplant went well.

Disclaimer: Even if your participation in this game is limited to drinking water something stupid is likely to happen.  No one actually cares what that stupid is since it will be your own damn fault, but if it should happen to get 500 or more votes on one of our favorite sites definitely send us a link, if it involves some hotties send pics too.

Take One Drink:

As soon as the season or all time record between the two is mentioned.

When Chara is mentioned as having captained an All Star Team.

When Alfredsson is mentioned as having captained an All Star Team.

If someone expresses amazement at Chara’s slapshot.

Take Two Drinks:

If Milan Michalek fails to be mentioned as an All Star.

When the word “Swede” is used in any form

When the word “Slovak” is used in any form.

If Naoko Funayama appears to be nearly as tall as any player other than Brad Marchand.

All the members of either the Bruins or the Senators landing on the same team is mentioned.

Take Three Drinks:

Whenever All Star footage is shown.

If it is noted Seguin had to wait longer than any other member of the Senators or Bruins to be drafted all star weekend.

If any NHL or NHL All Star record is mentioned.

When the division standings are mentioned.

Take Four Drinks:

If Erik Karlsson goes two shifts without someone mentioning he leads all NHL defensemen in scoring.

A coach is shown shaking his head after a blown call.

Someone asks someone not at the all star weekend about the break.

An interview occurs without a cliche.

Skip a drink:

If an incredibly stupid rumor is addressed.

You can’t tell which of the two glasses in front of you is yours.

You feel the urge to block a Zdeno Chara slapshot.

For variety we recommend having two drinks to participate with, if nothing else you’ll know it’s quitting time when you can’t tell the difference between your Patrone and Ketle One. No one is responsible for your idiotic actions under the influence of rum, vodka, tequila or your own genetic inferiority except you. Don’t blame me, don’t blame the NHL or the players, given the musical selections of most sporting events you won’t even be able to say gansta rap made me do it.  However I’m sure both I and Tosh.O will greatly appreciate the opportunity to see your internet video on Youtube or elsewhere.


While there are numerous stars not going to the All Star game because like Kris Letang or Jordan Eberle they are injured or like Lidstrom or Selanne they declined, there are some players who didn’t make it simply because they were deemed less entertaining than players who are better than them this year. I know most people who follow the NHL closely think (not without justification) that the All Star Game is indeed a farce, and I’m among them, but the skills competition and other events are a lot of fun and that’s why I’d like to see some of them go. Some as participants on the ice, and well, a few others just because.

Radim Vrbata has 21 goals for the Coyotes, which puts him ahead of Daniel Sedin, he’s also got five powerplay goals, and has actually scored shorthanded, something  Sedin has yet to do in his eleven seasons.

Patrice Bergeron, more points than Alex Ovechkin, has won in the playoffs, plays in all situations and owns a cup clinching goal.

James Neal, burst on to the scene this year with Crosby out of action and carried the team through the first third of the season, with 21 goals only five players have scored more.

Scott Hartnell, love him or hate him he’s having a great season. With 19 goals he’s got more than Ovechkin, Seguin, and Alfredsson who will all be there.

Kris Versteeg, the now well traveled winger has taken his talents to southbeach Sunrise and parlayed them into more points than at least half a dozen of the names on the roster, and he’s a great rapper.

Loui Eriksson see all the reasons above for any of these forwards. He’s kinda a big deal.

John Carlson is hands down the most well rounded defenseman on the Washington Capitals, his numbers are as good as Lidstroms and he’s got a much less defensively sound team around him.

Jared Cowen, despite the hectare of guys playing in Ontario already should be there, either as a Young Star, or full fledged All Star. The latter is a stretch, but no more than some of the players actually named.

Mike Smith is 8th in overall sv%, only two of the guys ahead of him have played nearly as many games as his 33, and Carey Price is 24th on that list.

One of the things that could liven up the event would be having a few players take the place of officials, and do the judging, interviews and commentary on the game and skills.

Shawn Thornton and Paul Bissonnette spring to mind as the perfect garrulous guys to cover the skills competitions and provide color commentary during the game.

Despite some dippy coach who taints things with his mouth wanting him anywhere but in his locker room, Sean Avery would be an unparallelled choice to interview arriving players, coaches and officials on the runway. He can talk the game, the players and the fashion and do all three naturally.

As the ultimate on ice officials; Brad Marchand and Ryan Miller. Neither is a bit shy about sharing their opinion, and (assuming any) the calls they made could be quite engaging. As an added bonus of Marchand being in the building him and Versteeg could have a free style battle.

Official Astrologer: None other than Ilya Bryzgalov.