Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ah Those Wonderful Glory Days...

Today the Venerable Off Wing Opinion talks about Brendan Shanahan blowing a gasket and says maybe it is time to retire the instigator rule (credit to Eric, he doesn't blame Bettman for the instigator rule).

But first on Shanny having a temper tantrum; JP astutely points out that Shanny was on the much ballyhooed "competition committee" (or whatever they called themselves) that gave us the larger offensive zones, touch-up offsides, no-go zones for goaltenders, icing line-change restrictions, yet ANOTHER crackdown on obstruction, and strengthened the instigator rule among other gimmicks.

However folks, I read Larry Brooks so you don't have to. And while I was on vacation in Las Vegas, (and before the "abnormal organism" took over and sent me into a fever-induced haze) I read Larry's rant on New Year's Eve. And while I had to go to Lexis-Nexis to find it, here's the relevant part:

THE conspiracy theorists watch the phantom penalty calls that have come to define the new NHL and see a man-date from the league office to ensure as much goal-scoring as possible by creating a game dominated by power plays and in which referees apply a standard of justice under which it is preferable for a dozen innocent men to be sent to the box than for one guilty man to go free.
But Brendan Shanahan, who is as familiar as anyone with the original intent of the new order of rules interpreta-tions that evolved from the congress he convened during the lockout - Shanahan being to the NHL declaration of inde-pendence from obstruction, say, as Thomas Jefferson was to the Declaration of Independence - maintains that is not the case.
Rather, Shanahan, who is held in uniquely high regard by the powers on Sixth Avenue, insists the phantom calls are a matter of misinterpretation by individual referees, who somehow have gotten lost in translating the rule book and the dictates from VPs Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom.
"I want to preface my remarks by saying that, first, I was not one of those guys who after three weeks last season thought we'd arrived at the promised land, because I've always known that it was going to take years for the players and the refs to figure everything out and be on the same page," Shanahan, measuring his words carefully, told Slap Shots on Thursday. "And second, that players have been yelling at refs and [have been] ticked off at officiating for as long as there's been a league.
"That being said, I do believe there's a disconnect between the league office and some of the referees who just don't get it. The critical point that's being missed by some refs is that an infraction still needs to occur in order for a penalty to be called. There still has to be a foul on a play for there to be a penalty.
"There is nothing in the rule book that says if one player touches another player with his stick, it's two minutes for hooking. There's nothing in the rule book that says if one player touches another player with his hand, it's two minutes for holding."
Indeed, holding is defined in Rule 54.1 as, "Any action by a player or goalkeeper that retards the progress of an op-posing player whether or not he is in possession of the puck." And hooking is defined in Rule 55.1 as, "the act of using the stick in a manner that enables a player or goalkeeper to restrain an opponent."
"I want to make it clear that it's very tough to referee a perfect game, but the last thing we want are penalties being called on plays where there are no fouls because it tends to undermine the credibility of the standards," said Shanahan, a member of the NHL competition committee. "We specifically addressed that point in all of our meetings.
"We would rather have a missed call than a phantom call. I can tell you that I know the people in the league respon-sible for overseeing the officiating feel the same way. I know that for a fact.
"At the same time, I don't think there's any question the game is better now than it was when we were in the era of all the clutching and grabbing and obstruction. If we went back to that, 98 out of the top 100 players in this league would flip out.
"So even though I want perfection, and I am frustrated by the way some of the refs are calling games, when you put this into perspective, we've taken very positive steps."

Yep, you read that right. Shanny wants FEWER obstruction calls. I saved the December 31st, 2006 New York Post Larry Brooks column in a Word file and if you send me a nice e-mail I'll be glad to share all of it with you. Ol Lar' didn't put anything out there worthy of bashing that day which is why I didn't comment on it, but good old Shanny did just 32 days later and here we are!

I guess the parade to the penalty box should only be in the favor of the Rangers... Hey Shanny, the refs simply "missed" those calls on Jagr last night. Deal with it. (Though this does go to show just how much attention people pay to Ol' Lar.)

And now back to the much maligned instigator rule. Eric thinks that Shanny's rant is a veiled call to end the instigator penalty. I find former Cap Neil Sheehy's account of what he got away with interesting and I have a couple of thoughts.

#1. Instigator penalties are generally only called when one player CLEARLY does not want to fight, like back in November when two Caps and one Thrasher clearly goaded other players into fighting them (and in some cases, never even got a punch in). The other way you see an instigator penalty called is if another player "turtles" on his opponent. Of course, this does not go over very well in either locker room by all accounts. And then of course, there are the situations where the referees simply blow the call; like when Shaone Morrrisssonnn went after Colton Orr after Orr cross-checked A.O. in the head. The fact that Morrrisssonnn wasn't suspended as he should have been and that Orr got five games shows that the on-ice officials blew the call.

#2. If a player that is "pestering" a star player and won't fight. How about pestering the pest? How about giving him little tugs and little hooks and little whacks at his skates? Of course, the pest isn't as skilled as the guy he is pestering, but wouldn't that also throw him off his game? If it is good for the goose why can't it be good for the gander?

Finally, this idea that the NHL needs to go back to allowing the players to police the game themselves has to go. Sorry, but I'll say it again, we tried it that way and it failed. It failed miserably. I think people already know the litany of where the NHL was in the 1980's. Look, I'm sure that the players and fans in the building all enjoyed the line and bench-clearing brawls. However, those "good times" and "glory days" branded the NHL as a thug league and people turned it off. Just as the NHL didn't get that reputation overnight, they aren't going to get rid of it overnight, especially when there's still fighting in the league.

UPDATE: Color me surprised, Shanahan won't be fined. Though does this mean that the NHL Front Office has taken Mullet Melrose's advice and has okyed somebody from the Ning to "take care of" Shanny???

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