After watching a series of games across the league tonight it has become apparent that the NHL has some major issues with consistency. In fact so many that I think at some point it will become more than just the "accepted" practice. Now that's saying a lot!
Last night the Buffalo Sabres played the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sabres got torched and bad. But one play stood out as I watched tonights game between Buffalo and Washington. A player is not allowed to move another players stick while it is on the ice regardless of whether the stick is good or broken. The Sabres player last night was whistled, and rightfully so, for "interference".
Tonight with the "same" referee officiating the game, the exact same play occured. This time it was Alex the Great who kicked a Sabre stick while the Caps were on a power play. Same official but this time no call.
In Montreal, the Pens took Le'Habitant's to OT. Cary Price makes a routine pad save and freezes the puck against his pad. The Pens players take a few jabs at it and almost 3 seconds after the play should be blown dead, the puck appears and is hammered home for the game ending goal. The officials looked completely lost.
Ten minutes prior to that, Chris Leteng was almost decaputated with a cross-ice/blind hit. He was what appeared to be knocked woozy and stayed down for a few minutes. Blood dripped on the ice... There was no penalty assessed on the play. When watching the replay it is clear the official doesn't see the play at all but when questioned by Pittsburgh players seems to give some sort of "story" as to what happened. No penalty, even though replays show a clear violation of the new rules regarding these type of hits. Further more, LeTeng returns to the ice later in OT and scores the game deciding goal. The fact that he was knocked silly raises the question how do you clear a player who gets a head shot like that and put him back on the ice minutes later?
The NHL has a problem.
There is no clear defined, black and white set of rules that dictate so many situations. When there are, the set of officials working that league are so far below the rest of the other professional leagues in terms of quality that their integrity comes into question. Skating at that level is difficult enough. Having the level of judgement capable of officiating the speed of that game is even tougher. Put the two together and I think there in lies the problem. Finding excellent judgement that can skate as well...
Tonight the Tampa Bay Lightening played the Florida Panthers.....AGAIN! What is the league office of scheduling thinking? Each divisional rival plays each other 6 times per season. Toronto and Buffalo play 6 times with the first meeting in December. The problem here is that these two Florida rivals have already played 5 of the 6 games this season. Rivalry? Division relevance? Isn't spreading out the games indicitive of measuring the strength of a team over the 82 games?
The NHL has the potential of being a major, level 1 sport but until the chaos of all of these types of issues get fixed, how can fans take this serious. The tickest are getting pretty expensive but the product and direction are still behind.