Friday, December 01, 2006

2 Minutes for THAT?

Last night’s penalty call for “Playing with a Broken Stick” on Erskine drew some murmurs among the Caps faithful and has inspired me to look at those infractions that, in most cases, seem downright silly. I do usually understand the theory behind the various penalties, but there are times when I think maybe allowing referees to be a little bit subjective wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Of course, allowing for a gray area can open up a whole other can of worms, but that’s something to discuss it's not like they don't already call other things subjectively. One man's slashing is another man's light tap, and so forth.

1) Puck over the glass (Delay of Game): I get it, really – teams are penalized for trying to relieve pressure by clearing the puck into the stands, thus stopping play and leading to a faceoff. The penalty is among the many additions to the ‘new’ NHL that are designed to make the game go faster. All that I understand, but that doesn’t make it any less idiotic. First of all, hockey players are not always accurate, so what was an attempt to clear the puck off the glass and out of the zone becomes a shot into the crowd. If they were always 100% accurate with their shots, goalies’ equipment would get worn out a lot faster and the goalposts and glass behind the net would look brand new.

But alas, that is not the case.

As I understood it, this season refs were supposed to use some judgment as to whether the clear was intentional or not, but I have yet to see a puck go into the stands (when not deflected) that was not immediately followed by a penalty call. Maybe I heard wrong, I don’t know. Either way, I think that if you want to speed up the game, try cutting back on those stupid TV timeouts...

2) Playing with a broken stick: The intent behind this one is clearly a safety issue – you don’t want someone (ahem, Kovalchuk) using just the jagged end of his half-stick to whack away at a puck or worse, another player. But what about what happened last night, when Erskine didn’t even realize the stick was broken? He didn’t notice because the two pieces didn’t break apart, meaning he was no more dangerous with the broken stick than with a regular stick. Had he put any more pressure on the twig it likely would have completely snapped and Erskine would have (I hope) dropped it on the ice.

3) Instigator: Ugh. I really hate this, especially now that the league has tacked on the mandatory suspension when it occurs in the final minutes of a game. Again, I get the intent – cut down on fighting, cut down on those end-of-game brawls, blah blah blah. But when you penalize people for starting a fight, you instead get these stupid setup fights – two guys look at each other and basically say, “Wanna go?” Gloves are dropped, punches are thrown, and they end it with a handshake or a subtle nod. That’s not fighting, that’s theater.

The only times fights make sense are when they grow out of a real emotion, anger or frustration, or when they’re in defense of a teammate. Take, for example, Brash’s actions last week in Atlanta – of course Vishnevski didn’t want to fight him, he’s not stupid. But Vishnevski’s a pretty big guy and a fairly physical player in his own right, he’s been known to throw the body and the fists around before. Brashear was out there for one reason and we all knew it – he was standing up for his team and sending a message. Did he go a little too far? Maybe – the blood on the ice was kind of gross, at any rate. But had he instigated something 5 minutes earlier, the penalties wouldn’t have been nearly as stiff, and that seems like a double standard.

Those are my observations...of course, I’ll go on record as saying that should any of these penalties go against the other team, I’m completely 100% in favor of them.

Anyways, I’m sure many of you disagree with me or have other infractions you think are suspect. Let me hear it!


FS said...

While I agree with you completely about the instigator rule (if the ref really want to call an extra penalty, just tack on 2 for roughing, see my posts for rants about the instigator over and over), I'm going to have to disagree with you about the breaking the stick call. The origin of the rule is that some point in the 70s, some guy was playing with a barely broken, but not completely broken stick. He tried to take a slapshot with it, and wound up puncturing another player's liver. Not cool. That's a rule that's in place for the players' safety, and I'll almost always support those kinds of rules.

CapsChick said...

Fair enough - that makes much more sense. I knew it was for safety but I hadn't known the history or the danger of even a semi-broken stick. Thanks for clearing that up, FS!