Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

02/23/2015

Throwback Rant

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Yerdon @ 5:55 PM

I got inspired today.

I read this piece by Igor Larionov at The Players Tribune and it made me feel a lot of things.

It made me feel like I care too much at times about hockey and the state of the game. It made me feel like spouting off a bit on Twitter. Which I did.

To sum up Larionov, he lamented how creativity in hockey was being virtually eliminated in favor of playing the perfect North American system. Part of his critique was how the majority of coaches these days are guys who were grinders when they played and that’s the sort of hockey they’re making the next generation learn how to play.

Not coincidentally, the NHL is having one of the lowest-scoring seasons in a long, long time. With the great play of some individuals (Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos) and the brilliant play of some teams over the past few seasons, this alarming statistic has gone almost ignored. Someone on Twitter graphed out how dire things have been.

If there’s something that seems to chap fans asses, it’s complaints about penalties. Take a look at Twitter or Facebook on any night and you’ll see fans of all kinds up in arms about it. It’s not for nothing now though, calls aren’t being made and teams aren’t getting the opportunity to make their opponents pay for their misdeeds.

Larionov’s observations are tied to this decline in calls being made. After all, the North American game is about being tough and playing the blue collar way and that means doing whatever is necessary to make sure the elite players don’t beat you.

It seems the mantra every year from everyone is that they want the players to settle it on the ice without the help of officials. Well that’s great in theory, except that players will do whatever it takes to get an edge. Hook, hold, interfere, obstruct. All of it. Before, it was only the playoffs where calls would stop getting made. Now it’s happening all season long and the NHL is as successful as it’s ever been.

Anyone else having a bad case of déjà vu?

We’ve seen this happen before in the mid-90s, only this time there’s not the Neutral Zone Trap bogeyman to point at and curse. Instead, it’s the same problem that allowed “The Trap Era” to take root. Calls aren’t being made and the inmates (the players) are running the asylum while the wardens (officials) let them hash it out. Meanwhile, offense has dried up and goals are at a premium.

Only Ovechkin and Rick Nash have a true shot at scoring 50 goals this season. Ovechkin has 38 and Nash has 37. Stamkos is third with 32. Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom lead the league with 64 points. Can they get 36 points in the final 22 and 21 games respectively to break 100? They could, they’re universal talents, but they’re not going to.

The last season in which the NHL points leader had fewer than 100 was, not coincidentally, 2003-2004 before the season-killing lockout when Martin St. Louis had 94 for Tampa Bay. Do Kane or Backstrom even get to 94 this season? Maybe, but the prospects look grim.

Even going back to last season, Sidney Crosby was above and beyond the league’s best player and still had just 104 points. He was 17 points better than Ryan Getzlaf. Ovechkin scored 51 goals and only two other players broke 40 (Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski).

This is a big problem.

The NHL has perhaps the greatest level of talent the league has ever seen and these guys can’t score goals like they did after the lockout in 2005-2006. Don’t you want your elite players looking the part? Don’t you want to be dazzled by Kane, Ovechkin, Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and the growing list of other brilliantly talented players? Of course you do. So why aren’t they allowed to flourish?

Make the calls. Open the game back up. Let the players be elite instead of dragging them down to be like everyone else.

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