In case you haven’t heard, there is a tiny group of people who feel the Canucks embellished a few calls in Tuesday night’s win over the Nashville Predators.
Apart from the Mike Fisher tripping penalty, an infraction that the referees couldn’t ignore because the evidence remained lodged in Ryan Kesler’s skate, all the other calls against Nashville were questionable: Shea Weber’s overtime hooking call came with Ryan Kesler holding his stick. Jarred Smithson’s high-sticking call came after Roberto Luongo whipped his hair back and forth like Willow Smith (arguably without being touched). Even Smithson’s roughing call on Alex Burrows came after Burr did a nifty bit of method acting in a post-whistle scrum.
Are the Canucks guilty of a little embellishment here? Yeah, probably.
Does this make you uncomfortable? It shouldn’t, if it does. It’s nothing new. Ryan Kesler’s always been a jerk. It’s what makes him so good. And the Canucks have always embellished calls. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll keep doing it. It’s effective.
It’s also common. Everyone does it, including their current playoff opponent. Remember how angry Ducks GM Bob Murray was midway through their first round series with the Predators? Let me refresh your memory. Here’s Murray, on the subject of selling a call:
“I’d never thought I’d say this to my hockey team. We’ve got to start diving because it’s working. It is working. [Nashville's] getting power plays because of the diving. I can go through the list of players. You already know who they are. You’ve seen them. It’s ridiculous.”
Murray cited a Game 2 call against the Ducks’ Brad Winchester when Nashville forward Jerred Smithson went down on an apparent high stick that replays showed never came close to hitting him. He also took issue with a hooking minor against Saku Koivu on Jonathom Blum in Game 3.
“How do you hook a guy in this game and (He) fall(s) forward?” Murray asked. ”The penalty is a hook and the guy falls forward. When you get hooked, you don’t fall forward. You go back. It’s just ridiculous. But our guys are going to start doing it. That’s what I’m telling them. It’s working.”
My initial response to this tangent from Murray was shock. Not at Nashville’s tactics, mind you, but rather, that a supposedly knowledgeable NHL general manager — especially the GM of the generally unscrupulous Anaheim Ducks — was surprised by them. Everybody works to make the calls go their way. If Anaheim was genuinely trying to walk the straight and narrow path, well, they weren’t trying to win.
Maybe this is why they didn’t, especially versus Nashville, where drawing penalties through whatever means is the perfect way to beat the Predators. Nashville’s five-man neutral zone trap gives teams fits, but it’s a five-man system. Take a guy off the ice and ooh, child, things are gonna get easier. Furthermore, it’s gonna be a lot simpler getting a body in front of Pekka Rinne if you have a man advantage.
For the Canucks specifically, it couldn’t be more beneficial. Negating the systemic strengths of your opponent while getting an opportunity to ice your league-best powerplay? Yes please.
Barry Trotz addressed the embellishment issue yesterday. “To me … that’s gamesmanship and I understand that,” he said, “But it’s also putting the referees in a tough spot. We have the best referees and if you are going to make them look bad I don’t think that’s needed in the game.”
The problem here is that Trotz is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. A hockey player can’t make a ref look bad; only a ref can. The whole point of “gamesmanship” (otherwise known as faking stuff) is to get away with things you’re not supposed to do. It’s a huge part of hockey, which is why there’s a term for it. Trotz knows this, but furthermore, so do the referees, and it’s their job (and no one else’s) to beat the con.
On Tuesday they didn’t, and Nashville fans have every right to be upset.
Just so long as they’re upset with the officials.Tags: Canucks, penalty kill, Predators, round 2