Rules are rules, even when they’re dumb:
Sure, Brian Campbell’s toss over the glass was technically a penalty. But the nature of the delay-of-game penalty has been discussed relentlessly this season. And when things mattered the most for the Buffalo Sabres, it was the cause of the game-winning goal.
Mr. Campbell’s not very happy about these circumstances:
“Stupidest thing ever. I don’t see how that should ever decide a game. Two guys forechecking a player, he goes to make a quick play in the bad ice in springtime, and it goes out of play. You’re telling me that’s a rule? They gotta wake up.”
Okay, first I’m going to yell at Brian Campbell, and then I’m going to defend him a bit.
The “over the glass” penalty is a penalty. Has been since April. If you haven’t figured that out — whether you like it or not — by June, then you deserve what you get if you do it.
But more important, think about what this penalty is against. You have a defender, most likely under heavy pressure. The defenseman is trying, effectively, a panic move here to clear the zone. Yes, there are exceptions, and yes, sometimes the puck bounces on you, but life sucks sometimes (and it sucks even more if you’re Doug Weight and a Sabre TURNS HIS BACK ON YOU after seeing you coming and draws a boarding call that helps Buffalo win game six — but instead of whining, Carolina and Doug Weight simply came back and made sure they won game 7. But, of course, that’s completely different and not relevant, right?)
So what’s this penalty a penalty on? Stupid, lazy, low-skill play. What’s the NHL supposed to be about? The most skilled players win and succeed. So why are we complaining about a penalty that penalizes a player who’s not making a skill play to avoid a pressure situation? To me, this penalty is a good one, because it is attempting to force players to make skilled plays, not simple ones. It exists for the simple reason that too many players WERE taking the easy way out and ducking pressure instead of combating it. So at that level — I love this penalty, and I consider it to be the same as a defenseman putting his hand over the puck in the crease.
I see no reason to change the rule, since doing so would only benefit the lower-skilled players and players taking the easy way out by flipping the puck out of play under pressure. That’s the exact OPPOSITE of what the NHL is trying to do, which is to encourage fewer whistles and higher skilled play.
Now, having said that, let me take a bit of a devil’s advocate. I sympathize with those who feel that a 2 minute power play is excessive. NO penalty is excessive in the wrong direction, but two minutes and a power play is too draconion, especially in key game situations. We’re in this situation basically because the rule is an extension of a long-standing rule against goalies (that was unfair and everyone basically hated); extending the rule out to all players is good; extending the power play out to all players as well isn’t.
This is especially true because, if you think about it, the over the glass rule is a special case of another rule that the league tweaked, one that most people really like in the new form: it’s a special flavor of icing the puck, one that leaves the surface.
So I suggest we keep the rule, but tweak the penalty. If the puck leaves the surface, treat it as icing: faceoff in the defensive zone, defensive team not allowed to change players. (I would also, for the sake of coach’s teeth everywhere, extend it to pucks that go into the benches directly, too). That avoids the power play, but prevents a team from benefitting from the low-skill play by being able to change lines — just as the icing rule does now.
It’s a much lighter penalty, and frankly, more in line with what the league is trying to do — and less able to SEVERELY change the outcome of a game, as a power play can (and does). And I think most people in hockey would buy into that idea: it’s a nice compromise between doing nothing (bad) and the power play (overkill).
That’s the thing that I never understood about fans/pundits/players not wanting “the refs to decide a game.” If the refs make a bad call, that’s taking it out of the players’ hands and deciding the game. If the players break the rules and the refs make the calls, the players decide their own fate.
What I’ve been saying all along: choosing to NOT call a penalty also decides a game, only it decides it in the other direction: in favor of the person stretching (or breaking) the rule. That’s not a behavior we should encourage out of referees, or we might as well not have them. Down that road lies the world wrestling federation and roller derby, not a legitimate sport.
But in reality, most fans (and players) blame the refs, because fans want to blame anyone but their players for failure, and far too many players prefer to blame others for stupid plays than admit their own mistakes. It’s always easiest when it’s some outside conspiracy, and not your own weaknesses and mistakes. And refs are easy targets.
By the way, um, how many times did Jason Pominville “draw” penalties against Carolina? oh, wait. if you don’t get called for diving, it’s just playing hard and competing….
But that’s an argument for another blog posting…
update: from the Star (Via Kukla’s):
TheStar.com – Delay of game rule assailed:
NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, who oversees the committee as a non-voting member, said people should not forget that the effect of the delay of game rule has to be considered in concert with all the other radical changes the NHL made prior to this season to enhance offence. In fact, Campbell suggested the rule worked to perfection, pointing out that Brian Campbell was tired and under pressure and he was trying to clear the puck out of danger. It was exactly that kind of scenario that the competition committee had in mind in adopting the rule.
Campbell said the committee considered the ramifications of the rule before it recommended it to the GMs and that it was established not only to increase offence, but also to maintain the flow of the game.
“That was discussed at the time and people brought up that it might hurt a team in an important game,” Campbell said. “We know that. What penalty doesn’t? All of the rules we put in place, including this one, were to enhance offence and negate the defensive mechanisms that coaches have put into the game.”