Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sharks and Stripes

I know I promised you guys would be stuck with me, the verbose one, for this month, but after a glowing recommendation from Earl Sleek at the Battle of California (Thanks Sleek!), we've convinced Daniel to shirk his responsibilities and come back for a couple of posts this week.

Daniel, good to see you amongst the living again. Here's your question:

It was raining garbage when time expired at the Ponda Center on Sunday, with the rabid faithful of Anaheim hoping to hit an official. No one, including Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick, could deny that the officiating decided the game in the closing minutes. The Ducks DID lose their legs and DID take sloppy back-to-back penalties when the game was close, but they were also denied obvious calls to even things up on the other side of the ice. And as time expired, as Getzlaf put it, "[there were] guys kicking legs out, [and] guys getting jumped from behind."

The penalties for the home and home series with the Sharks tallied at 10-3 in favor of the Sharks, before you count the Misconducts and Roughings handed out at 20:00 of the 3rd on Sunday.

Daniel, the Ducks have done very little to discourage their reputation as a dirty team. One could even argue they CHOSE to be dirty this season when playing a cleaner brand of hockey didn't result in wins. As such, should the Ducks just accept losses like Sunday night's as the operating costs for a gritty hockey team? And does the NHL have a responsibility to take a second look at the way they treat the Ducks when even the teams that rarely see Anaheim (Philadelphia for example) are routinely, and sometimes rightly, complaining about the Ducks' play?

I can admit that our tough style of play is going to result in more penalties than other teams. Which is why we are last, or next to last in every penalty statistic the league keeps. My problem isn't the penalties, it is the blatant double standard that has been levied against the Ducks. Right before the high sticking call that got converted for the Sharks game winning goal, there was another high stick that didn't get called in the Sharks zone, and another one not too long after the goal was scored. Not to mention the three or so that occurred during the last two minutes when we were trying to tie the game, including Roenick hooking Getzlaf some 4 feet away from the crease with the puck on his stick, Vlasic cross checking Selanne when he was placing a high screen and the puck was at the point and Getzlaf being tackled in the crease about 2 seconds before the horn. I'd like to provide more empirical evidence, but I'm afraid I just stopped counting. It's one thing to take a lot of penalties, it's entirely different to have one thing called on you and then have it be a no-call on the other end of the ice. Someone needs to start paying attention to this.

Philadelphia is the only team penalized as much as us, so they shouldn't be hating on anyone. I also don't know what everyone's problem is. Yes, we play tough. We work in the corners and some of our guys, Perry, can really get under your skin. But we don't play dirty. We don't take cheap shots, and I challenge anyone in the league to think of a time when we weren't willing to drop the gloves and stick up for ourselves. We are not dirtier than any other team. If we take penalties that's entirely different. So I just want to take this moment to say that there is a different between taking a lot of penalties and being a "dirty" team. That is why the moniker is undeserved. Forgive me for being a rhetorical scholar for a minute, but the more we say things, the more real they become. Because everyone keeps saying we are dirty, the refs are looking for, and ultimately finding more penalties. Frequently, they find non-penalties. Moreover, If the refs think we are dirty, they might be calling soft penalties because they think they have probably missed a million cheap shots. This is the worst part of being on the West Coast. No one really watches our games, but they'll make generalizations from a box score. So what if we play tough, This is Hockey, not baseball. If you want to avoid being hit, go play a different sport. I know there isn't an argument that will move people in the other parts of the Hockey world, but it just bothers me that we get called dirty. I know Pronger loses his mind sometimes, but no one thought the Islanders were a bad team when Richard Zednik went stupid. No one blamed the Canucks for Bertuzzi losing his cool. And when Marty McSorley decided to slash Brashear upside the head, did they blame the team? No! So give it up. Call the games fair, and let's get back to honest tough Hockey, instead of the biased sideshows that Anaheim fans have been subjected to.

First, I'm going to remind you that you and I were at the Flyers game when Corey Perry elbowed Claude Giroux in the head. I believe your sentiments at the time were something to the effect of: 'Jesus! He deserves the penalty. He just came across and elbowed the guy, didn't even try to hide it.' Now, there are Ducks fans who'll argue that Perry's 6'3", Giroux's 5'11" and you have to put a body on a guy if he's going to bring the puck into the zone then skate into the middle of the ice. They might even argue, rightly, that Perry was getting it from the Flyers enforcers in that game, and Perry's the kind of guy that'll go after your small forwards when you go after him. But you have to remember that these are the videos that teams are sending to the NHL. And we don't look good in these videos of Pronger stomping on a guy's leg or Perry taking two strides into an elbow aimed at a guy's head.

Are they cheapshots? I think here, you and I date ourselves. We still think of the OLD NHL where cheapshots were spears, crosschecks to the head, intentional high sticks, two-handed slashes to the hands, Derian Hatcher's Macho Man Randy Savage flying elbow on Jeremy Roenick's jaw-- the sort of things that result in the stick dueling scene in Youngblood. I'd have to say the new NHL is stricter than that. It's not just that the days of Ted Green vs Wayne Maki are over; I think the league is genuinely afraid of anything that will remind people that hockey is, historically, a very violent game. But even there, the double standard rears its ugly head. Rob Blake wasn't suspended for spearing Corey Perry in the giblets, though the officials left the door open for the league to make that call.

[Perry and the attack on his aforementioned giblets]

I believe the officials go out there with special instructions for the Ducks, just as they received special instructions for new Hooking and Holding standards at the beginning of this season. And in many ways, that's okay. The league DOES have a responsibility to the other 29 teams. But the instructions should end at, "Get Corey Perry to stop elbowing people in the face," or "Get Corey Perry to stop making contact with goaltenders in the crease." Anything more than that, and they lose credibility in Anaheim.

It's infuriating how many objective calls the officials miss in our games. Not just the highsticks. I've counted 10 instances of bench minor Too Many Men On The Ice that went uncalled this season; it should be part of our scouting report by now-- "Don't forget to put out six skaters in Anaheim. The officials will let you do it." I really blame a lot of this on the two referee system. I haven't seen two referees agree at Honda Center since December (and that's when they both agreed we should be called for EVERYTHING). Since then, a lot of calls in our favor have to be made by the referee on the opposite side of the ice to prevent some epic whistle swallowing by the guy who's ten feet from the infraction. The NHL needs to stop worrying about the integrity of its controlled violence and start worrying about the integrity of its officiating.

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