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Principe's Blog: Official-s Complaint

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Paul Devorski was the referee who called back Ales Hemsky's goal in Colorado on Mar. 10, 2010. Devorski has been working in the NHL since the 1989-90 campaign (Photo by Getty Images).

I was reading through some articles about Anaheim and I read a great quote from Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. He was upset over a recent hit by the Dallas' Stephane Robidas on the reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. Robidas received a 2-minute minor, but Boudreau was looking for a 5-minute major and after the game said, "If I say anything (about the officiating), I'm going to get a $10,000 fine and if I don't say anything, nothing happens or changes."

It's probably a scenario that, at some point during the season, the other 29 head coaches in the NHL also go through.

Tom Renney's been through it more then once; in fact, it could have happened on Saturday when an Ales Hemsky goal was called off because of goalie interference by Sam Gagner. He had been guided into the crease with a little help from Gabriel Landeskog. It wasn't ruled a penalty, but it was ruled he impeded the goalie in his effort to make the save. The 22-year-old never actually touched Semyon Varlamov and I don't think Varlamov would have ever touched the puck. It was a little like in football when the ball is 20 yards over the wide receiver and yet the defensive back bumps him and gets called for pass interference when there was no chance at a completion. It may not have been that insurmountable, but Varlamov never tried to get across. He also never complained in English or Russian, which tells me that in his mind it was a goal.

This is not meant as an attack towards the official, because it all happens fast. They have no replays and these calls are made when, 'in the opinion of the referee,' there was goalie interference. It made you wish that NHL head coaches, like their counterparts in the NFL, had a challenge flag available. Until that happens, they are stuck with talking, yelling, whispering directly to the official or by blasting them post-game. One might cost you a penalty the other one a payment directly to the league. In a game like hockey, it's appropriate that a team can feel like  they are getting the short end of the stick.

That's how Taylor Hall was feeling recently. It was leading to some banter with the officials, and let's just say it wasn't doing the first overall pick any favours. As a result, when I spoke to Taylor prior to Edmonton playing in SJ last week, he had decided to completely leave the officials alone. Hall was not going to say anything to them, not to look at them and not to breath on them. Instead, using his fire and passion on the ice and channeling it towards the opposition and not considering those in stripes to be a part of the other team.

Hall's frustration and that of his teamates stems from various issues, but lately it has been lack of powerplays. Going into Monday's game with San Jose, in four of their last eight games they had only one powerplay. In another one of those games they had no chances with the man-advantage. By comparison In the first 60 games of the year only once did they have no PPs and only three times were they limited to just one man-advantage in a game. In those eight games, the Oilers had a total of 13 powerplays the opposition's 20. Maybe the Oilers don't deserve the calls or maybe it's just that games are being called tighter with playoff positions up for grabs; a shame nonetheless considering Edmonton has the best powerplay in the league.

I do not buy into the theory that officials are treating the Oilers like a '29th place team'; that they are officiated by where they are in the standings and not by what they are doing on the ice. I don't think any referee, with how fast they have to respond, would ever compute in his mind, "Oh that's Jordan Eberle from the second last place team in the league, so I am not going to call a penalty even after he was tripped up on a breakaway."

We have to give the officials more credit than that.

I have a funny feeling a few years from now when Hall, Eberle and RNH are growing into their careers and the Oilers are closer to the top then the bottom in the standings they'll be getting more of the calls in their favour. Then some other teams will have an 'Official Problem.'

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