It’s not a secret that I despise diving. I’ve written the odd piece on the subject, once or twice (ok so its actually an enormous bugaboo that I prattle on about pretty often ) and I’m pretty happy with the NHL finally taking steps to control the dippy soccer like behavior of some players and franchises.

Here’s the rule chance directly from NHL.com

DivingThe fact that coaches will now be fined is now more than ok with me.

So which players are most likely to deserve a fine this season?

  • Jeff Skinner, on the rare occasions the former figure skating star is on the ice he’s clearly auditioning for a post-hockey career in soap operas.
  • Alexandre Burrows, with Tortorella still at the helm Burrows might be kept in check, Willie Desjardins is an unknown, unlike the duly esteemed Alexandre Burrow.
  • Dustin Brown, he does many, many things right and is most regards a model player, on the other hand it certainly appears to the impartial observer that his skates come complete with a great deal of helium.
  • Sidney Crosby, while he tends to be more subtle about it than some players on this list, there’s no doubt “The Next One” has embellished more than his share of slashes, trips, and the rest.
  • Brad Marchand, while he’s pound for pound one of the stronger players in the game, you can tell when the other team gets in his head because he starts falling down a lot.
  • Martin Brodeur, legend he may be but if he were as weak as he appears every time an opposing player makes contact or near contact with him he’d never be able to scramble like he does.
  • Mike Ribiero, (this space left intentionally blank.)
  • Henrik & Daniel Sedin, the Swedish Swan-divers are almost as good at falling down and finding each other on the ice.
  • Carl Hagelin, has the speed to avoid pretty much any player in the NHL, but can’t seem to avoid sticks and other impediments that aren’t even there.
  • P.K. Subban, a guy with all the talent in the world who has been known to take the express elevator to the ice on a pretty regular basis.

I’m sure there’s one or two I missed, who would you add?

Kevin Bieksa has been around a long time. Eight NHL seasons, a lockout year lost, and six seasons playing in the NHL playoffs. He’s earned some respect. Let’s face it, the NHL officiating being awful in about 60% of games is the one thing you can get fans from all 30 NHL franchises to agree on. Individual calls are a bit harder to nail down, because therein lies the difference between the hometown devil and the foreign evil, but hell even the NHL can’t get that straight. We all know about the “Avery interpretation”. We’ve seen suspensions for clipping calls when the contact was to the hip, and we’ve seen hulking defensemen slam their opponents heads into the glass and get off scottfree.

So when he calls out two players in particular and doesn’t paint the enire locker room with the same brush, it should give you pause. Joe Thornton is big dude. He’s strong, he’s tougher than he’s given credit for, and yet his glove seemed to go down faster than a drink in Patrick Kanes hand as he shook it off to get a referees attention the other night. Logan Couture too is capable of soaking up big hits and playing on. And of all the things the Sedin’s are not, strong and physical lead the list. A stick that scrapes his chin should not to my admittedly limited knowledge of anatomy cause what looks like either a spinal spasm or what looks like the result of shock therapy and a collapse to the ice.

Further, Bieksa plays with some of the guys in the NHL who’s reputations for playing the game the right way are bullet proof. There just isn’t a player in the league who owns a reputation for integrity with more bite than Alexandre Burrows. Ryan Kesler too is someone who could fall on his sword and his integrity would protect him from any injury that last longer than it took for the referee to look away. Max Lappierre of course spent long enough in that university of fair, morally (and physically) upright play in Montreal to earn a PhD in playing the game the right way.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • the leading scorer in the NHL would be a guy with six or seven games less than the three men closest to him, and not named Sedin, Ovechkin, or Croby but Claude Giroux
  • the only Edmonton Oiler on a better than point per game pace would be Jordan Eberle
  • on January 6th Rick Dipietro and Sidney Crosby would have played the exact same number of games (8)
  • that Cal Clutterbuck (6) would have more special teams goals than Zach Parise (4)
  • that David Clarkson who’s career high is 17 would lead the New Jersey Devils in scoring, and the team would still be tied for a playoff spot
  • Alexandere Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks would  have more game winning goals than Phil Kessel, James Neal, Dany Heatley or Pavel Datsyuk
  • James Neal would be the first player to 10 powerplay goals
  • Zdeno Chara would have more powerplay goals than Chris Kunitz, Ilya Kovalchuk, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, or Jonathan Toews
  • Dan Girardi would lead the NHL in average time on ice at 27:17
  • Nik Lidstrom would be on pace for roughly 30% more penalties and 30% less points than last season

Teams:

  • the 26th place Edmonton Oilers would have the 2nd best powerplay
  • the New Jersey Devils would have a penalty kill clicking at 90.9% and still be the 19th placed team in the NHL
  • the Northeast division leading Boston Bruins would have a goal differential of +69 and the other five divisional leaders would have a combined +98
  • the Los Angeles Kings could have a negative goals differential, be dead last in goals per game, and still be in playoff position
  • two teams Vancouver, and Minnesota would have a winning percentage over fifty percent when trailing after one period.
  • the Anahiem Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens would share the distinction of having a losing record when scoring first
  • just two teams, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers would have a winning record when trailing first
  • the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils would each have as many wins in the overtime and the shootout as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks would total (10)
  • despite being in 30th place all season, the Columbus Blue Jackets would make it through the seasons first 31 games without being shutout
  • only two teams the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the only two teams to be neither shutout or have a shutout

Among the things have no place is sports is blatant, center stage cheating, Perhaps the most common, and inexcusable form is diving. It’s not called often enough, sadly it is most often called in conjunction with the tripping, hooking, high sticking or interference events that inspire the dive. It can’t be both, but if the referees are going to call both make the liars hurt. There are fines clearly stated in the rulebook, but honestly those may not be enough.

In my mind referees should be able to rule that something was enough of an infraction to make the mechanical requirements for a hook or high stick, and not be enough to actually impede or endanger the attacked player. In this case both calls would be correct. But, that’s not really enough to eradicate the problem. The solution is to make the dive or embellishment a more costly penalty.

There are three main options that present themselves.

  1. Call the dive and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the same play even if the other team is penalized, leading to two players serving two minutes for the infraction and potentially leading to a powerplay for the team who committed the act that met only the mechanical requirements for an infraction.
  2. Make the dive a double minor. From five on five play this would lead to four on four play for two minutes, and then a two minute penalty kill for the embellishing players team.
  3. Make diving a five minute major. Even if the mechanical requirements for a hook, trip or other call were met.

Number one is probably the easiest to implement now as it would not require an in season rule change, or a wait until next season to implement. Like the “Avery Rule” it would be an interpretation change. Realistically it could be an intermediary step to one of the other options.

Number two and number three to me have the most appeal. I think implementing both might actually be the right answer. Option two the double minor would probably be the best option to use when there is an action by the opponent that would warrant a penalty if it were to continue or connect. Option three in making a dive or embellishment a major (possibly with video review) if unaccompanied by an opponents infraction or potential infraction.

If the NHL is serious about providing role models in the form of it’s players, this fairly minor set of adjustments to the rules is the simplest thing they could do all year to improve the integrity of the game.

What’s your call?

It was announced today, that Zdeno Chara would not be charged for his hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Outraged fans, egged on by irresponsible ratings whores like Tony Marinaro, paralyzed the cities police force fielding hundreds of calls in the wake of an unfortunate play that was not deemed worthy of suspension. The hit did propel sweeping structural changes around the NHL, and Pacioretty has not only made a full recovery, and stated he didn’t feel charges were justifiable, but gone from cog to cornerstone of the team.

The Connecticut native is one of a number of Americans propping the team up. His eight goals through the first eighteen games leads the boys of the Belle Centre. His assist total brings him to second in points on the team. The +4 that goes with these, is five higher than it was last season, and he’s doing it all in two full minutes more per game. At this Pacioretty stands a good chance of doubling last years numbers in the same number of games.

As good as it is for Zdeno Chara and his family, friends, team and fans that there will be no charges, and to see Pacioretty not just recover but thrive, this is possibly the best day sports have seen in the halls of law in decades. The precedent that would have been set if this had resulted in charges is so inimical to sports both organized and casual that it can not be overstated. If contact sports suddenly become subject to regular criminal charges for in game behavior, law enforcement becomes another tool for winning and everyone loses.  Boxing and mixed martial arts would become impossible to maintain. Football and rugby would be gone in a flash.

Referee manipulation is something that already happens in sports. Certain star quarterbacks in the NFL can get calls their way just for gesturing at the officials. Diving in hockey is so much a part of the culture on certain teams that eradicating it would take years. Imagine how much worse things would be if Eli Manning could whistle up the state police between downs to have whichever defensive lineman hit him dragged off for hitting him “too hard” or if Alex Burrows or other gifted actors demanded the police remove a visiting player for a devastating hit.


How deep would teams rosters need to be just to play a week? How deep would they need to be too make it a season? How much money would companies like Reebok and Under Armour lose terminating endorsement deals on a regular basis? Given the inefficiency of the legal process, how long would players have to wait in jail before their trials? Even the ones released might lose their ability to travel between states or back and forth across international borders.

Say what you will about the hit. You can hate it. You can believe it was indeed a criminal act. It doesn’t matter. If you enjoy contact sports; football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, rugby or any of the rest this is your victory as much as it is Zdeno Chara’s. Today men and women can breathe a sigh of relief as a threat to the income of thousands of people across two countries tied together by the NHL and all the programs that feed into and from it have a threat to their way of life put aside.

Even before the series started, we’ve seen the temperament of the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins on display. I’m not sure the contrast could have been more stark had it been planned this way.  On ice the two teams have played hard with one team getting a suspension for a blatantly dirty hit, collected embellishment penalties and oh yes bitten the other. The other team has responded with hard checks, some taunting and focus on the game.

Off the ice the gulf has been even wider. When Claude Julien faced the media after two of his players, both leaders, both well known to everyone did something he didn’t care for he stated what it was and said it had been dealt with. When the Bruins lost a game, Julien was candid about what needed to be fixed. His opposite number and one time defensive partner, answered nearly all of last nights questions with a persnickety “it doesn’t matter”, he said it enough times I’m sure some viewers flipping over from Monday Night Raw thought they were being treated to a parody of the song by The Rock and Wyclef.

When Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, an offense for which other players have been suspended, Vigneault couldn’t seem to see anything wrong. Despite the league dropping the ball, the only comment Juline and company made was “we support the leagues decision”. When Aaron Rome planted Nathan Horton on the blueline, more of the same. Julien and the Bruins saying they needed to move forward, Henrik Sedin, Aaron Rome, and Vigneault saying they didn’t see anything wrong, that it was unfair someone else wasn’t suspended in a different series for a hit they stated was similar.  This of course immediately after the Burrows non-suspension.

The pissy and well rehearsed Sedin ‘rebuttal’ of Mike Milbury has been well covered. Luongo’s adventures in tire pumping too have gotten all the electrons anyone could need.  Is it any wonder that this series has raised the status of the Montreal Canadiens and their fans in the eyes of many Bruins fans?

Like many hockey observers I’ve been puzzled by the Vancouver Canucks for a quite some time. They have a solid amount of talent. They even assembled some pretty impressive depth. What mystified me for most of the last week or two is how they could have assembled so many misfits and insensible boors in one place.

One of the Sedin’s went on a clearly well rehearsed rant the other day about what a talking head said about him and his dear twin. Well, guess what? When you’re an athlete or other entertainer the people who’s job it is to dissect the performance of your branch of entertainment will occasionally do something other than pat you on the head and say “good boy”, especially when you’ve earned a swat in the head. Anyone who can take shots at the maturity of another adult but who together has held up NHL franchises not once but twice by refusing to play without your twin brother has no basis for questioning other peoples maturity. Clearly there’s nothing in the world more offensive than a pop culture reference to describe the play of more than twelve million dollars worth of not very much. Personally I’d have gone with Flora and Fauna Addams, but that’s just me.

Riding shotgun with the Insecurity Twins is a player who actually bit another player during a scrum. He then claims he didn’t bite him or that it wasn’t intentional. Somehow he didn’t get suspended. Ruutu and Avery among others would love to get that leeway.

The Aaron Rome hit speaks for itself, and I’ve covered it in previous posts. In summary at best it was a case of a mental lapse. Most likely it was the arrogance this team has shown from the word go. Functionally it doesn’t matter, except to Nathan Horton who was knocked cold by a disgusting lack of sportsmanship, his family, the Boston Bruins, their fans, and of course the millions of people who have come to loathe this iteration of the Vancouver Canucks.

The latest is of course the waffling of the Canucks goalie on his statements regarding the man likely to beat him for another Vezina trophy.  First he claims to he would have made the save on the one goal Thomas allowed. Which brings you to wonder how he could possibly have allowed 12 goals on less than sixty shots in the previous two games. Anyone who’s had the chance to peruse the stats for the two goalies has to ask themselves if Luongo’s graps of reality would be helped with a little less time spent on his well oiled locks.  Tim Thomas not only has better career regular season numbers than Roberto Luongo but also has better career playoff stats. This is no doubt surprising to anyone who only looked at or heard his comments given that Luongo is claiming to be a better goalie. Not only is the Vezina winner consistently better in both the regular and post season he’s consistently improved upon his regular season numbers in the playoffs, this is not something anyone well informed could say about Luongo’s own post season adventures.

But the on ice arrogance of the Canucks should surprise no one. The front office is clearly culpable in crafting this masterpiece of moral ambiguity. Just before the series started the favorite hatchet man, drinking buddy, and advice guru of General Manager Mike Gillis penned an opus declaiming the evil aligned against Vancouver’s brave warriors. I’m hardly a fan of Colin Campbell (go search his name or ‘wheel of justice’ in the search box) but it was amazingly coincidental that Tony Baloney dropped this article just days after the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in years? Neither Campbell or the office of discipline have shown themselves to be friends of the Boston Bruins over the past few years. One wonder what he and they would have spun up had another team advanced.

Game five was nearly a replay of game one. Tight checking, sound defense and outstanding goaltending. Luongo managed to turn in a great performance for his team, Thomas was tested less. The slim 18 minutes of penalties in the game is the least in the series so far. Maxim Lapierre had had the lone goal of the game during one of the frequent scrambles in front of the goalies.

Much was made of the powerplays in the game, but none converted. The penalty kills out hustled them, first to last. Perhaps the biggest story of the game was the Versus coverage. Eddie O was appalling. He never failed once failed to express creepy level of appreciation for a young, beardless player. and his effusive appreciation for Canucks players. Millbury may be clearly is over-the-top nearly every time he opens his mouth, but is at least evenhanded in distributing his own brand of insanity. Even Jack Edwards displays less bias when the Bruins play the Canadiens, and he’s a local announcer playing to the home crowd.

The officiating may have actually slipped back into the too permissive as Lapierre and Burrows each deserved at least one unaccompanied diving. The matching penalties to Milan Lucic and Alex Burrows were highly curious. Lucic hadn’t moved stick or skate. Burrows deliberately placed his skate on top of Lucic’s stick and then ‘mysteriously’ falls down. This was clearly deserving of an unaccompanied dive.

The Bruins played sound defensively and Thomas was Thomas. They did not however play in front of Luongo in an effective manner. I don’t think I saw any Bruins player make body contact with Luongo even once. Even strength, powerplay or penalty kill they need to take advantage of the weaker defenders on the Canucks and abuse them to open up lanes to the net.

Still 12 minutes left in the game, Thornton was just given a misconduct and The B’s have been kicking Vancouver gluteus all night.  But that isn’t the story.

The fact that this league has allowed Alexandre Burrows to continue playing after the incidents of game 1 has been embarrassing enough but now they have to deal with the act of disciplining Aaron Rome.  And they better or the NHL will become a laughing stock among the big 4 sports.  But what the Bruins have done as a result of that hit has been outstanding…

Boston has shut down the power play, allowing no shots.  All this while scoring two shorties of their own.  The power play looked strong.  Even strength the guys were throwing their weight around.  Pushing Vancouver, letting them know that this wasn’t going to be the cake walk they may have been expecting.  And Timmy…Mr. Thomas was worth every penny of his 5 million dollars this year.  He even had more hits recorded than the Sedins had shots on net at one point. 

It’s no secret that the Left Wing binkie is Milan (hey, he plays left wing!) but it was great to see him come to the defense of his goaltender and let Burrows know in no uncertain terms that he is on Milan’s radar.  Very important for the on ice officials to escort him out of harm’s way at that point or it would have been a painful ending to Alexandre’s night. 

As I wrap this up…and the game has ended, quite the one-sided affair it appeared to be, I can’t help but wonder…What does all of this mean if the Bruins come out flat in the next tilt?  The Boys in Black need to carry this momentum over to the next game, come out physical, put Vancouver on the defensive as soon as the puck drops.  Letting a game, and a motivation, such as tonight, go unused would be a sin.  Just heard Keith Jones say that what Milan did was entertaining and necessary and J.R. disagreeing with Claude, stating that sending a message tonight was absolutely important.  The Left Wing couldn’t agree more.

So the B’s have accomplished Must Win #13.  One game at a time, One must win at a time.