Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Turning the Page

11

I often like Cam Cole, but his latest really gives me the pip. I suppose Cole can be forgiven for buying the media narrative of the Stanley Cup Finals given that he was part of the pack of inkstained wretches who penned that narrative. I think it was nonsense myself, but Cole has to buy it. Okay, I get that, but can’t he let it go? He’s decided the Canucks need an attitude adjustment because they don’t buy it.

What is it that the Canucks don’t buy?

It’s a question, really, about whether the Canucks recognized then, or see more clearly now upon a summer’s reflection, how they so plainly got themselves on the wrong side of the law in the first three games against the Boston Bruins, and spent the rest of the series paying for it.

What exactly did they do to get themselves so plainly on the wrong side of the law? It was mostly media bullshit. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the behaviour of the Canucks in the first three games. Certainly nothing that is not seen frequently in the NHL. I don’t have any problems if the Canucks refuse to accept Cam Cole’s premise. I don’t accept it.

More importantly, if this is indeed a real explanation for the disgraceful officiating – that the referees, embarassed by the Canucks and the ridiculous media narrative reacted by refusing to call very obvious and very vicious penalties – Cole should have blasted the officiating (and the league) then and he should continue to blast them now. That explanation strikes directly at the integrity of the game. Out of spite, the officials deliberately favoured the Bruins?

At the time the hockey media excused the officials for failing to call obvious penalties. Why? Because the Canucks got on the wrong side of the law, and because everybody hated them, it was okay for the refs to allow hockey – the Stanley Cup Final! – to degenerate into a vicious disgrace. Even if one gulps and swallows all the media canards about the Canucks it absolutely, positively does not excuse the referees. What kind of game does Cole want hockey to be?

He quotes Alex Burrows:

“I don’t know what outside people are saying about what happened against Boston, but we gave it everything we had and came one game short. We were really close, Boston played well, we had tons of injuries. I don’t know. We’re not going to blame the refs or focus on what people think of us. It’s a new year.”

I’m with Burrows. I’m not going to blame the officials for the loss either because I prefer to believe that in the end, the Canucks lost because they ran out of healthy players. Turn the page. On with a new year.

That’s healthy. No attitude adjustment required.

Postscript: Speaking of the officials, the Brendan Shanahan disciplinary videos have been getting great reviews for transparency yada, yada, yada. What nonsense. It isn’t like Colin Campbell didn’t explain his controversial decisions. He didn’t release a spiffy video, but he always said about as much as Shanahan said about the hits he’s adjudicated.

Anybody see any difference in the play yet? As always, the NHL is inching imperceptively in the right direction. Hurrah!

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Comments

11 Responses to “Turning the Page”
  1. peanutflower says:

    So I e-mailed Cam Cole and asked him the same question, and because we’re buds he responded — he’s actually pretty good about responding as long as you don’t write a wankerish e-mail to him. So here’s what he said:

    Yes, I was talking about the sudden reappearance of the lack of discipline, at the worst possible time, and a backlash from the referees, also at the worst possible time.
    I agree, though, that there wasn’t enough left in the tank at the end, which is why, when the Canucks say they fell just one game short, I think they are mathematically correct but kind of kidding themselves about their actual chances of winning the series, as lopsided as it had become by the late stages.
    I was as stunned as the Canucks themselves were at the 180-degree change in officiating from the earlier rounds, but my point is that, upon reflection (and I even thought this at the time), they helped create their own nightmare on that front, and you’re right, the beautiful hockey they played all season just wasn’t possible any more.
    Anyway, good of you to write, and thanks for reading.
    CC

    And one more:

    Agreed, on all fronts. In a perfect world, referees would always go strictly by the book. Unfortunately, whatever the rules say, referees are human beings, who don’t like to be shown up, and — this is a phenomenon in all pro sports right now, unfortunately — sometimes allow their egos to get in the way of the rulebook. You see it baseball umpires, less so in football, but quite a bit in basketball and soccer. They take town license plate numbers of players who repeatedly tick them off, and store them away for future use.
    cheers
    CC

  2. Thomas Pratt says:

    The only way I’ve been able to turn the page is to dramatically scale back on my intake of hockey opinion columns and blogs. There is far too much volume and far too little quality.

    • Thomas Pratt says:

      For what it’s worth, I want to clarify my comment. It’s far too pithy and could be misconstrued. Especially if it’s construed as a flippant slam of Tom. I just think the bulk of hockey media, especially opinion columnists, have devolved to the point where it is more about creating a narrative storyline that drives traffic that it is offering meaningful analysis.. Maybe I just have rose-colored memories of the hockey media of my youth. Questioning the standard of officiating is easier to conflate with the paranoid rantings of the tin foil hat brigade than it is to treat as legitimate.

      I’ll continue to read Tom’s blog, but give Cam Cole and a host of others a miss this year.

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks PF, and thanks CC. Two points (at the expense of repeating myself):

    I agree, though, that there wasn’t enough left in the tank at the end, which is why, when the Canucks say they fell just one game short, I think they are mathematically correct but kind of kidding themselves about their actual chances of winning the series, as lopsided as it had become by the late stages.

    Actually this is one reasonable narrative for the Final. The Canucks (and fans) probably were kidding themselves by the end, although the fans really didn’t know how badly they were banged up. Hamhuis, Samuellsson and Raymond were out, but Henrik, Kesler, Higgins, Erhoff, Malhotra, and Edler all had injuries that should have had them sitting out.

    They gave it their best shot, but the team they iced for the last couple of games was a shadow of the team that began the playoffs. All the Canucks can reasonably do going forward, is do all the same things and hope for a healthier, better result.

    That’s reasonable, an attitude that Cole should not criticise.

    In a perfect world, referees would always go strictly by the book. Unfortunately, whatever the rules say, referees are human beings, who don’t like to be shown up, and — this is a phenomenon in all pro sports right now, unfortunately — sometimes allow their egos to get in the way of the rulebook. You see it baseball umpires, less so in football, but quite a bit in basketball and soccer. They take town license plate numbers of players who repeatedly tick them off, and store them away for future use.

    There was no real reason for the officials to be ticked off – that was media bullshit – but okay, the Canucks ticked them off and they are human. If they are professional, they park those feelings. They do not act on those feelings and ruin a Stanley Cup Final.

    Strictly by the book? Nobody asks for that or for perfection. All I’m asking is for a simple declaration that hockey can’t be played by Hudson Bay rules. That should have been one of the media narratives. If guys like Cole are going to go “Oh, well, the Canucks got what they deserved because the refs are human”, nothing ever changes. These are supposed to be the best officials in the world and at best they abdicated their responsibility to call the game more or less according to the rules in some absurd belief that “letting them play” was suddenly the way the game should be called. At worst, they cheated the game, the players and the fans.

    If the media is not going to call out the refs, who will? If the media decides that the Canucks somehow have to change their attitudes or get tougher or something there is no accountability. Nobody expects a perfect world. I expect that even an imperfect media would criticise the league for what they allowed the Final devolved into – the most vicious and disgraceful in memory – and the parties who were really responsible – the officials.

    Since neither the league or the officials were ever called out for it, everybody figures it was okay. Its going to keep on happening. The same media – silent when it mattered – should be taken seriously when they say the league should do something about goon hockey?

    • peanutflower says:

      For the record, while CC was nice enough to reply to my e-mail and give me something in return, it doesn’t mean I agree with him. I think he was just as bad as anyone when it came down to slamming the Canucks for something, whatever it was. I still can’t figure out what it was, anyway. It’s like one media guy said those horrible Canucks are the most hated team in the league, and their fans, and then it just had this snowball effect and pretty soon everyone else including the refs went YAH, THEY ARE, AND NOW WE HATE THEM TOO!! Oh well, the past is past. If we’re this ticked about it imagine how the players feel…

  4. David L. says:

    Maybe it’s time to stop the hand wringing about what the public perception of the league will be ‘if things don’t change’, and finally just admit that the NHL *is* and probably always will be bush league sportslike entertainment one short step away from professional wrestling?

    I mean why should the teams and the league organize their enterprise according to a higher ethical standards than the owners’ other businesses? How can we, as fans, expect that of them?

  5. Dave says:

    Still have my fingers crossed that Shanahan will be able to push the quality of his reasoning a bit beyond the pathetic level of “But this is what the number was when we kind of went through it and the way I felt it. [...] The suspension was what I felt. When I looked at it, it’s what I felt.”

    But no hope for the hockey MSM, who for the most part write as though they spend too much time watching Fox News in airports.

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think it is possible, David, not unless they set out some clear standards for various infractions and some sort of range for punishment.

      I hold out zero hope that Shanahan will have any success. The league is still trying to eliminate about 100 hits while leaving the other 49,900 hits in place. The only way to get rid of those 100 hits is to eliminate about 10,000 hits that are within shouting distance of the unacceptable 100. As long as the (fuzzy) line is where it is today, nothing can change. The line has to move and I don’t see any evidence that it has moved.

      • Dave says:

        Sure, I agree that in an ideal world everything is clearly codified — for this aspect of a dangerous play, add X games to the suspension, for these mitigating factors subtract Y, and then multiply by 2 for a repeat offender (or whatever). (Does anyone have any idea what constitutes a 5-minute boarding major not also meriting a suspension? Does such a thing exist any more?) But for now I’m happy to set my sights a little bit lower, some semblance of consistency coming out of that office, from which such a codification can maybe be inferred even if it isn’t published.

        It’s too early to say that we won’t get that. For instance, one can hope that once the Shanahan regime has been around for a while, the videos will start to include comparables: “This play is equivalent to such-and-such other play, which merited a 3 game suspension. So, my decision is….”

        Maybe I’m just too relieved that the previous dolts aren’t doing it any more. I’m not sure I’m ever going to forgive the NHL for the Rome suspension, which was just mean-spirited and sadistic.

        • Tom says:

          I hope Shanahan starts using comparables too.

          I wasn’t happy with the Rome suspension either, but to me the Boychuk hit on Raymond – and everybody’s failure to label that as an incredibly dirty and dangerous play – was just as unforgivable. Worse, given that it happened after Rome. The referee looked at it and called nothing? The league declares it should have been a minor?

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  1. [...] TOM BENJAMIN’S NHL BLOG: Tom rejects the notion the Vancouver Canucks got on the wrong side of the officiating in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and paid for it as a result. He prefers to believe the Canucks ultimately lost because they ran out of healthy bodies. [...]



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