Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Red Wings’

April 18th, 2012

Should the NHL Add a Third Referee?

Just opened the following email from a long-time reader, one that was also addressed to my old friend Jon Press of Japers’ Rink as well as ESPN’s John Buccigross.


I am a long-time hockey fan, and have been a season ticket holder for the Capitals since the 1990′s (and a partial season plan holder prior to that). I have a suggestion, or at least a possibility for what to do regarding the violence, thuggery, what have you in playoff hockey.

Why not go to a three referee system?

I know that one of the complaints is that there aren’t enough “good” referees now, so increasing the need by 50% seems to be counter-intuitive. But isn’t it possible that the game is just so fast and there’s so much going on that two referees (assisted by two linesmen) just aren’t enough?

Here’s how I imagine it. You keep one referee on each side of the red line (or blue line if you prefer), and the third acts as a rover and goes wherever the play goes. The one who stays on half of the ice is responsible for goals and goalie interference, plus whatever else they happen to see, but mainly goals and goalie interference. The rover is responsible for watching other things that are going on around the play. The referee from the back side of the ice is responsible for watching what is going on BEHIND THE PLAY!

It’s instinctual to watch the puck and what’s going on with it at any given moment. But to have someone who is specifically supposed to NOT watch the puck at all times means that there’s less of an opportunity to pull shenanigans that aren’t seen by the refs.

It’s almost like in football, where each part of the officiating crew is assigned to watch something different, so that (most) everything gets seen. If you’re responsible for NOT watching the puck, that frees you up to notice other things that are going on.

Maybe this would prevent headshots away from the puck, provide more consistency on goalie interference calls (as that, and goals, would be the only responsibility of that referee at any given moment), and so on.

I know it’s not perfect, and you’re potentially diluting a shallow pool, but think about how much changed after they went to a two referee system, and how players found they couldn’t get away with stuff away from the play. Or think about how much the NBA changed when it went from a two referee system to a three referee system.

Anyway, just a thought. And as you are some of the most thoughtful hockey writers out there, I thought you might want to ruminate on it.

Keep up the good work.


Thanks to Todd for including me in his email. While I share his concern about some of the more recent incidents we’ve seen in NHL playoffs this season, I don’t believe that adding another referee would have deterred any of the more egregious actions. Over and above the fact that adding another official would crowd the ice, I’m afraid it wouldn’t get to the heart of the problem we’re seeing right now.

Like many other observers of the game, I think the league made a real mistake when it declined to suspend Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber after he smashed Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the plexiglass WWE-style during Game One of that Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series. Limiting Weber’s punishment to a $2,500 fine seemed to send a pretty clear signal to coaches and players that the league would be easing up on discipline in the postseason. Given what we’ve seen since, beginning on Saturday with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner attacking New York Rangers center Brian Boyle even as Boyle declined to defend himself, the thesis seems to have been borne out.

At the same time, I don’t want anyone to think I’m delivering this judgment with a tone of high dudgeon. The fact is that I believe that this playoff has been the most exciting in recent memory. The play, at least in my estimation, has been incredibly intense, something that has been borne out by the increasing television ratings. And it wasn’t lost on me that coverage of a hockey game was part of the intro on Sunday night’s edition of SportsCenter. Not only did the program recap the entirety of Game Three of the Pens-Flyers series, it followed it up immediately with a complete segment featuring Steve Levy and Barry Melrose — just the sort of attention that the league would have killed for back when ESPN was its cable television partner.

Like it or not, refereeing the NHL and policing on-ice discipline is an art, not a science. Use too heavy a hand, and the games will bog down into dueling power plays, something we saw frequently when the league returned from the lockout. In contrast, when you ease up too much, you get exactly what we’ve seen over the past week, with intense play escalating into something resembling street thuggery. To be honest, we’ve been very lucky that a player hasn’t been more severely injured.

I don’t envy the task at hand for NHL officials and league disciplinary czar Brendan Shanahan. In essence, they have to figure out how to keep a pot of water steadily simmering without boiling over onto the stove top. Crack down too hard, you’ll spoil the flow of the game and the television viewers will find something else to watch. Ease up too much, and you’ll get more UFC on ice.

So while I don’t think adding another referee will solve the problem at hand, don’t believe for a second that I don’t wish that the solution was that simple.

May 26th, 2010

Don’t Cry Detroit, Steve Yzerman Will Return

After news broke on Tuesday that Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman would leave his front office job with the team to take over as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, two friends of mine mentioned how bummed they were that their hero was leaving the nest that had been his home since shortly after his 18th birthday.

Thinking out loud on Facebook, those two friends spent some time cursing the front office in Tampa for stealing their hero, and lamenting his departure.  Well, to both of them and any other Red Wings faithful who may be listening, I say this: dry your tears and do not despair.  Eventually, perhaps sooner than you think, the prodigal son will return older and most definitely wiser to run the team you love so much.

How can I be so sure?  Like it or not, current Red Wings GM Ken Holland isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and nor should he.  The team has been to the Finals four times under Holland and won three Cups.  At age 54, he’s not young anymore, but he’s not exactly old either, and probably has at least one Stanley Cup left to win, if not more, before he finally retires.

On the other hand you have Yzerman, who quite frankly, has probably learned all he can after working for almost the last four years under Holland.  He’s been GM of Team Canada twice, once at the 2007 IIHF World Championships and once at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I don’t think I have to remind you that Team Canada won both tournaments.

So, after 27 years with the Red Wings, there are simply no worlds left to conquer for Yzerman in Detroit.  It’s clear that he wants to build a team of his own, and he’s earned that chance.  And with the Lightning, it’s a heck of a chance.  It’s a team that boasts Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Victor Hedman.  That’s a core of talent that plenty of other GMs would like to be able to count on.  With Yzerman at the helm, who knows what other assets he might be able to import if he decides he wants to rearrange the deck?

Even better, the Lightning are a team without a coach, which gives Yzerman another chance to put a unique stamp on this team.  Toss in the fact that the Lightning will be starting next season with a new ownership group after the disastrous Len Barrie/Oren Koules regime, and there isn’t a blanker slate to work with in the entire NHL.

As a fan of the Washington Capitals, I’m sure that the front office here understands that the Lightning aren’t a laughing stock anymore now that Yzerman is running things.  With all the chaos that’s taken place in Tampa in recent years, it’s easy to forget that only four wins stood between the Lightning and the playoffs this season.  To make up that gap, Yzerman has to get the team one extra win every about six weeks between October and April.  I’m betting that he’ll find a way, and the Lightning will be back in the playoffs.

I’m having a hard time imagining a better job for a first time GM.  In short, Yzerman will kill in this job, and prove that he has the chops to run his own organization.  And after anywhere between 5-7 seasons, after he’s pulled the Lightning out of their six-year long funk, I don’t doubt that Holland will decide that it’s time to step aside.  And when that moment comes, Yzerman will be on the top of the Mike Illitch interview list.

So cry if you must, Detroit fans.  But it’s time for Mr. Yzerman to run his own show before he’ll be ready to run yours.  No worries, eventually, everyone will be the better for it.