Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Detroit Free Press Wants No Penalties Called Unless, of Course, Someone Gets Decapitated

Everyone has a bad day. Everyone has a bad column. That's why it's surprising that the MSM Joker of the Week comes to us from the Detroit Free Press. The Free Press has been on top of their shit all playoffs long, including their most recent episode of stunningly good investigative journalism (not sarcasm). Ben Schmitt, now a legend in the field, gave us the scoop on the kid that threw an octopi on the Mellon ice before Game Four, got kicked out and snuck back in.

Today, it is with deep regret that we must punish another Free Press writer for his most illogical transgressions. This writer is Drew Sharp. Drew, you see, is complaining about a penalty called in the third overtime on Monday night, which led to Petr Sykora's game winner on the powerplay. Somewhere in all of this, Drew must have forgotten how giving the Pens a powerplay in this series is virtually meaningless. They were 3-for-21 but what was amazing is that their PP unit was an absolute joke. They could barely hold the zone.

Everyone's entitled to their opinions. Everyone can say what they want.

But when someone says "Nothing short of decapitation should merit a man-advantage in overtime." we have to seriously call into question their mental abilities.

So, today, we give Drew the Fire Joe Morgan treatment. It's nothing personal Drew, it's just that I don't agree with your column. Feel free to disagree with mine.

"NHL blows it; Wings game shouldn't have been decided by penalties"

The title tells you exactly what this is going to be -- Wings Fan Boy whining.

Gary Bettman was a happy soul wading through the still buzzing crowd within the corridors of Joe Louis Arena around 2 a.m. Tuesday following the fifth longest overtime game ever in Stanley Cup Finals’ history.

Drew, congratulations on being the first person to ever see the happy side of Gary.

The NHL commissioner/Hockeytown piñata thought his game reached new heights with the three-overtime thriller that kept Pittsburgh alive, raising the possibilities of a seven-game marathon to the Stanley Cup that might actually attract more than just hockey fans.

“It was a great show,” Bettman said.

Piñata, indeed. I can certainly agree with you there.

I asked him if he was sure that NBC still broadcasted the seemingly endless sudden death nationwide at midnight eastern time or did it cut to Jay Leno everywhere but Detroit and Pittsburgh.

The commissioner didn’t appreciate the satire.

And that satire would be where, exactly? I don't think he was the only one it got lost on.

“Everybody got it,” he said sternly, “and they got a fabulous game. We’ve got two tremendous teams battling it out.”

The next sentence is the part where Drew goes off the deep end.

But the problem was that special teams should never determine the outcome of a battle as spirited as Game 5.

God forbid something that has been part of the game since the dawn of time determine the outcome of a game. That's like saying we should ignore the blueline if an offsides call was to negate a game winning goal. Penalties are part of the game. Why, all of a sudden, are we supposed to ignore them?

The referees should never dictate an overtime game, but that’s precisely what happened Monday night, uh, rather Tuesday morning.

Glad you know what day it is.

Look, nobody is ever happy as hell when a penalty helps to determine a winner. That's why there's controversy many times when it does. But to say that the referees should completely and totally swallow their whistles at the end of games is absurd. If you're implying that Hulder's high stick should be permissible, you need to re-evaluate your life. He caught Rob Scuderi so well that Scuderi started bleeding. If you don't like the fact that it was a double minor, fine. If you have a problem with calling a penalty when a player gets smacked in the face with a stick, you're almost as sick as Don Brennan when he called for the Senators to take out Crosby's ankle.

What's more telling is that nobody is talking about this call.

Bloggers? Nope. Even Wings coach Mike Babcock isn't worrying about it. He's concerned with goalie interference calls that were questionable. Those didn't factor into the end decision. They weren't even called in the same period as Sykora's game winner.

Nothing short of decapitation should merit a man-advantage in overtime. It’s the antithesis of the hockey code – play until you bleed and then play even harder. The overtime officiating was an insult to the players’ unflinching commitment to sacrifice their bodies at any cost for the ultimate prize.

They’re putting skirts on these guys for the myopic sake of promoting skill over will.

Let's see... Sexist comments? Check. Saying that nothing short of death should be a penalty? Check.

Let that sink in for a second. This man just said that "nothing short of decapitation" should be a penalty. Jesus Christ.

I know. I know. I’m an old, gap-toothed dinosaur trapped in a prehistoric pre-lockout world, but winning playoff overtimes should also be more about will than skill.

You just said that. And I can't remember pre-lockout hockey being this pre-historic. I wonder what the Champions of the past would have to say about hockey not being about skill. I think Wayne and Mario might beg to differ. Did they win multiple championships because they had more will than their opponents? Maybe.

Did they have more skill?

Without. A fucking. Doubt.

I know it’s an antiquated ideal of referees swallowing their whistles in sudden death because the players didn’t want policing when one final goal determined victor.

Well, let's see. The Zebras called seven penalties in the first two periods. During the third period and first two overtimes, they called four. They called all of four penalties in the span of a normal game. Four. Can you imagine sitting through a NHL game where there were only four penalties called? Wow.

NHL Zebras swallow their whistles all the time down the stretch. And I mean, all the time.

Don't believe me? OK. Then check out James Mirtle's cold, hard statistical look on the issue.

Goalie interference?

Are you serious?

Yeah. Seriously. It's in the rule book.

A little hook in the ribs?

Play on!

That one is in there too.

An innocent high stick to the face?

Play on!

Um. When, exactly, did a high stick TO THE FACE become innocent? An accident, maybe, but still a penalty.

The Penguins’ Rob Scuderi happily admitted that he was praying for the slightest hint of blood when Jiri Hudler clipped him with a high stick in the third overtime.

That’s the new NHL?

Blood was once a badge of honor. Now, it’s an excuse to gain an artificial edge.

I'm curious as to what Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar have to say about this. I think there were enough guys that got banged up (on both teams) during Game Five to disprove your point.

Oh and I'm sure you would love the fact that the Wings get a man advantage if Pavel or Henrik get slapped in the kisser by some pine. The calls do go both ways.

Hudler got a four-minute double minor and the Pens quickly scored with the advantage.

A shock to anyone who had watched their powerplay unit all night. Next time, try turning on the game prior to the third overtime.

The Penguins deserved to win because goalie Marc-Andre Fleury simply wouldn’t let them lose, but winning an overtime classic like that with a man-advantage nonetheless seems cheap.

That sentence started out intelligent and then quickly dropped off.

And I’d say the same thing if the Wings won the Cup in Game 5 under the same circumstances.

So, hypothetical situation. If the Wings were awarded a four minute powerplay under similar circumstances, and won the Cup on an ensuing power play goal, you would be pissed. I find that hard to believe. I'll give you credit for talking big, but I'll believe it when I see it. Somehow, that penalty would likely be the last thing on your mind. You'd probably be too busy hunting down leads to proclaim how the Wings are a dynasty.

A foul isn’t always a foul.

A penalty isn’t always a penalty.

A goal isn't always a goal.

Reality isn't always reality.

The timing must be considered along with the swelling emotions of the moment.

Good point. Your column would have benefited from taking some time to cool off after such a tough loss.

“The Cup Changes Everything” league slogan comes off as schmaltzy, just a little too syrupy to be taken seriously.

But it’s true.

The Penguins’ Ryan Malone took a puck in the nose, dragged himself off the ice, got patched up and got right back on the ice.

That’s how it’s done.

The last team still breathing after five-on-five wins after multiple overtimes.

"The last team still breathing?"

This isn't a matter of life and death. They're not actually trying to kill each other out there. I'm still not sure if you're familiar with how playoff overtime works. Everything, down to the smallest detail, is exactly the same as it is during regulation with the obvious exception of it being sudden death. Nothing else changes.

If you're trying to make the case that referees are not swallowing their whistles down the stretch during the playoffs, you're batshit crazy. They swallow more than -- I'm sorry, I'm not going to go there. But the point is that you're trying to say that referees need to swallow their whistles more when the truth is that they already are. If they called fewer penalties, the Zebras would be putting themselves out of a job.

To conclude, I'm going to end with what your article had none of -- statistical analysis.

First, take another look at Mirtle's analysis. It's the best analysis of this subject you can find.

Secondly, here are some stats. I've put together a graph breaking down penalties called during each period of this series. It's all pretty telling, if you ask me. The longer the game goes, the fewer the penalties that are called. With the exception of the third period of Game Two, the refs are swallowing their whistles in every game of the Finals thus far.

Pretty telling if you ask me.

I guess some people are never happy. Some people need to find a scapegoat. The Wings were given every chance to win on Monday night and they didn't. They couldn't hold a lead. They couldn't solve Marc Andre Fluery. Sorry, tough luck. Try again.

(click to zoom)


  1. Decapitation. Is that a double minor? What would impalement be?

  2. *Starts the slow clap*

    Brilliant article Kevin. I would attempt to say something witty right here, but your words speak for themselves. You tore him up like a-- eh, I'm not going to go there.

    Well done.

  3. Have watched this series? Tell the truth.