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John Garrett: I'm not buying it

by John Garrett / Vancouver Canucks

This shortened season is quickly winding down and there are things that I just don’t get.

I don’t get how a team can have 51 power plays in its first ten games and then 25 in its last ten. I don’t get how there can be at least one interference penalty called in the first ten games and the one in the last ten. The Canucks have finished four games of this five game trip and I am completely mystified as to what is a penalty and what is not.

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John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.

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There are many explanations as to why there is such a discrepancy between the calls made between January 19th and February 7th and those between March 30th and April 16th.The league says that the players know the importance of the final stretch of games and are on their best behavior. They say that because there is no games against the other conference in this lockout year teams are more familiar with their opponents and can devise plans to counteract the other teams play thus avoiding penalties. They say that standards have not changed and that calls are being made at the same level as at the start of the season.

I am not buying it.

There is a reason there are so many low scoring games and the main reason is that players know they can hook and hold and interfere and get away with it. The rule book says “a minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck.” This is supposed to be called on faceoffs and was called at the start of the season.When is the last time you saw a faceoff interference call? Have you seen rule 76.4 called? The rule states that when a player is ejected from the faceoff circle his replacement has to come in and get set or if he is ejected the team gets a penalty. When is the last time you saw that called?

I have my own theory. By letting almost everything go it levels the playing field. Parity becomes the norm not the exception. Referees become little more observers, present just incase things get out of hand. At first I was an advocate of the two-referee system. There was so much going on behind the play that the game needed an extra set of eyes to keep that under control. That is no longer the case. Now every game is scrutinized from league offices in either Toronto or New York. Why do you have to have a referee hanging over the crossbar trying to decide if the puck has crossed the line when every goal is under video review? How many suspensions have we seen where there was not even a penalty being called?

One of the complaints most teams have is that there is not enough competent referees. Going back to the one referee system would alleviate that. The two referee system puts pressure on both guys on the ice. A perfect example was Tuesday night in St. Louis. Patrick Berglund was holding Dan Hamhuis in the corner. There was a ref standing two feet away who was not going to make the call. Do you think the guy standing at center ice is going to put up his hand and show up his partner?

The league does not have consistent pairs. In the one referee system you knew what you were getting. If Andy Van Hellemond did a game or Kerry Fraser or Bill McCreary, you knew what the standard was going to be. That is no longer the case .If a referee with 100 games experience is paired with a guy who has done 1000 games, who do you think is going to control the game?

In Nashville, Derek Roy was hit with a high stick ,lost a couple of teeth and required a few of those nasty in mouth stitches. Dan O’Halloran was the closest referee to the play and did not make the call. He is a veteran of close to 1000 games and if in his opinion it was not deserving of a penalty should that have an influence on the other referee? In Nashville, Pekke Rinne went after Zack Kassian in the final four minutes of a 5-2 game. The Preds were being eliminated from playoff contention and Rinne was frustrated at not being able to get his team to the post-season. He chopped Kassian with a good old fashioned Billy Smith slash and then followed it with a Ron Hextall cross check. Kassian retaliated and both got penalties. After the ensuing melee Kassian ended up with a double minor and Rinne with an unsportsmanlike penalty. I didn’t get it then and don’t get it now.

In St. Louis, David Backes and Keith Ballard had some good confrontations. In the second period Backes pushed Ballard into the boards and Ballard reacted by going after Backes. Backes and Ballard exchanged cross checks and slashes and then dropped the gloves. Ballard is listed at 5-foot-11 and 200-pounds. Backes is 6-foot-3 and 225-pounds. Alex Burrows did not like the matchup, and with Kevin Bieksa already out of the lineup, he jumped in. The Canucks ended up with the extra two minutes. In the third period a similar situation arose when Andrew Alberts went after David Perron. Backes jumped in a similar fashion. This time the penalties evened out. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now.

I know it is not an easy job, but it could be easier if the rules written in the rule book were called.

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