Officials detract from NHL playoff potential

Sports ‘n Things by Dave Thompson

Last kick at the hockey can for the 2016/17 season. Time to look ahead to fall, which will bring a further re-tooled Smoke Eaters, an always excellent Nitehawks, a brand new NHL franchise – and a brand new reason for Canadians to head to Vegas.

Just before we get to that, however, one last blast on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The officiating, throughout the NHL playoffs, was between atrocious and okay.

I do not believe, as it was playing out, that the officials actually had enough impact to deny Nashville the series – Pittsburgh was just too strong when it needed to be and much better at the desperation needed in tight game spots.

I do believe that better officiating would have allowed the players to provide a better spectacle, especially in the final series. Just in the last game, an early goal was required to open the game up to be that better spectacle. Nashville appeared to provide that to all objective viewers, but an out-of-position official whistled the play dead, too quickly, and left the game to muck on until Pittsburgh got lucky near the end of play.

Had that goal counted, as it should have, we would have seen the best of the Penguins, rather than their best, Katy Bar The Door selves. Senseless for the league to try with new rules to bring more offence into play and then produce an officiating ethos that takes the game back to the old zone defence strategies.

It is annoying when the league encourages, by its officiating guidelines, a team with a Crosby, a Malkin, a Kessel, a Justin Schultz, to play to win 0-0.

In game one, same thing, but as a result of the most infuriating of official uses of replay, the post mortem offside. Of all the uses of video, that is the worst, most enigmatic. Who wants hockey with enigmatic rules and rulings. That rule is, of course, the one use of video that the NHL, which cares only as much for hockey fans as their wallets are deep, intends to staunchly defend against all appeals.

It’s too bad hockey people are no longer running hockey at its highest level.

• Another meme that emerged was the place of Sidney Crosby in hockey history. No doubt he is the best current player in the game. Talk of him being ready to replace a Howe, a Beliveau, a Messier, or any of several dominant defencemen on the best all-time list is, at most, premature.

Sid’s game is complete, and sometimes excellent, but it is that of an infrquently brilliant grinder who lifts his team as much through effort as excellence. Anyone thinking of him replacing any such as Orr, Gretzky, Howe, Messier, Beliveau, Harvey, Poitvin, Forsberg, or even Larry Robinson, or Rocket Richard, or Niklas Lidstrom, among the top ten or lower GOATs that do not play goal, needs to settle down. Few hockey people would trade any of them for him, at least unless there were draft picks involved.

Ok, summer is upon us. It will soon rain less frequently and the days, although beginning to shorten soon enough, will be long in daylight for quite a while. Get out to a ball park or a soccer pitch or a pool or a beach, or a horseshoe/bocce pitch. Hockey will be back much too soon.