1220 for publication Friday May 5, 2017
Do you recall, in this present season now into its last act, when goal production was called into question by the NHL’s Commissioner? Well, do you?
They were looking for something, anything, new rules, circular nets, open season on running goalies, and no-defenders allowed within the new no-go-area painted green and cerise between corner face-off circles.
The first paragraph was true, some of the second wasn’t’. You decide.
Of course the NHL, in its wisdom, rejected out-of-hand any of those crisp and effective, yet flawed suggestions needing more work. Still, as the NHL were scratching their heads and looking blankly at each other, time marched on and, who would’a guessed, the goals started to come. True, they were fewer, with only a few outbreaks of blowouts, but it was accomplished without doing any tinkering.
To their credit, the NHL withdrew their panic. Imagine, cost-savings and progress realized by using common sense on the problem. Whatta concept!
Take a fledgling team like Toronto, peppered with rookies up front and at the blueline, who became the darlings of tight hockey and wedged themselves into a post-season spot. They entertained fans with overtime games and one goal wins while losing in six against the Capitals, only the best team in hockey over the season. That took penalty control.
Montreal enlisted a new “old” coach, Claude Julien, and just made it into the post season, Ottawa did the same, getting Guy Boucher to take the Senator reins.
For me this was the most surprising coaching change coming into the season, and now, today, the Sens are still in the hunt. We had last seen Guy Boucher as the wild-eyed, growly, short-fused coach who harped his way out of a job in Tampa Bay. This new version is the quieter, calmer model and the team has responded.
The Oilers look like a team with the tenacity that will need a game seven with the Ducks to win. They lack the experience of Anaheim, have the legs and firepower to prevail, yet patience will be their key to any success.
However, as I have warned many times, there is this nasty feeling a series, perhaps the Stanley Cup Final could be decided on a penalty advantage gained by a “dive.”
It’s always a cowardly, disgusting way to play the game. With the rise in diving, don’t look to the League to take control or any leadership in exterminating the practice. Little has been done since the arrival of diving in the 70’s. Frankly, there is no excuse, none, for allowing it to continue.
My thoughts on the subject have been printed here. Often. My concern is, an important game is going to be won, or lost, on a phony penalty, the result of a dive.
So, it comes down to Mr. Bettman, and since he has had so much success in dealing with the players and their Union, it’s about time to get serious, and enlist their support before hockey is dragged down to the status of soccer. Hockey used to be the “tough guy sport, the sport other pros in other sports point to when asked about “tough’.
Most recently, the dive on Wednesday night when Penguin Nick Bonino successfully staged a stick in the vicinity of his shoulder, into a high-stick to the face penalty for Washington’s T.J. Oshie. It was a joke, And the joke was made obvious on TV-replay.
Therefore, why not give the referees a review? Why not afford them their own check, their own conference, and call an obvious dive a foul with some clout. Let’s say four minutes for diving!
With the advent of cameras everywhere, and the technology to back them up, diving can easily be exposed.
Mr. Bettman, why not go down in sports history as the big-league commissioner who eliminated diving, rather than the guy who helps promote it?
Otherwise, you are going to be sorry for your lack of judgment and control. If your players are trying such underhanded moves in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it means they have gone over the limit. It indicatess even the players don’t care anymore. That means you are headed for a breakdown, one you can avoid.
Like a Stanley Cup won or lost on a foul.