The NHL features some of the fastest, most intense action in all of sports. However, it is being taken down a peg from within.
The NHL has a problem on its hands. It is affecting the St. Louis Blues, but the sport as a whole as well.
The NHL officials are just garbage now. For ages, fans have had a rather poor relationship with the men known as zebras. However, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse in recent years.
As fans, we are always going to complain. We see things through tinted glasses and it is almost impossible to not be biased no matter how hard we try.
Watch any NHL game as a neutral and check out fan reaction online and you see there is often a wide discrepancy between reality and perception. That does not excuse poor officiating.
Too often, the officials are putting their stamp on games. It is becoming an epidemic around the league for fans to blame officials for losses. The perception, among many, is the league has an ax to grind with their team.
There is no point in hiding behind pretense here. Almost every Blues fan at some point in their life has accused an official of being paid off or saying the league wanted the team to lose.
Just about every team except Chicago has probably said that in recent years. You have to believe it is not true or the sport loses all integrity.
Even if there is no fix though, the officials are becoming too much of an issue. Before replay, it was becoming similar in baseball where umpires seemed like they wanted the spotlight as much as players.
I have always hated the cliche, but it is true. Nobody has ever paid a ticket (with the exception of a family member perhaps) to see a referee.
St. Louis’ Game 4 against Nashville in the 2017 NHL Playoffs was a prime example. There was a play blown dead and a scrum near the benches. Somehow, the Blues come out undermanned and the Predators end up scoring on the ensuing powerplay.
There was absolutely nothing in that scrum that should have made the penalties handed out uneven. The refs will fall back on the excuse of a third man in, but that’s utter garbage and even neutrals agreed.
The sad thing is, as a fan, I was not even that upset about it until the goal. It has almost become customary for situations to arise that find the Blues given phantom extra penalties when it should have all washed out.
Nashville fans will say it is sour grapes, but this is not even about one single game or the result. It swings both ways as Nashville super-fan Carrie Underwood said the Blues were gifted the win in Game 2. Regrdless of slings and arrows, the officials are just bad in general lately.
Later in the same contest, Patrik Berglund was knocked down and the refs called a penalty on Nashville. It was another bogus call. Of course, as Blues fans you take the powerplay in a heartbeat, but it should not have been called.
Nashville got away with crosscheck after crosscheck. There were slashes and hooks galore on either team. To have the penalties called that actually were is just silly.
Oddly, in that same game, the trip called against Magnus Paajarvi drew ire from fans and that was probably the easiest call to make.
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Even looking further back, there were several horrendous calls made against the Blues in their first round series with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016. It is not just against the Blues either.
This is a league-wide problem. We just tend to see it in the Blues games because those are the ones we care the most about.
Phantom penalties, bad calls, gutless non-calls and more. There have been clear high sticks missed, but then guys will be sent to the box for a face wash or little tap on the shin.
The issue seems to be that good officials were somewhat forced out. There is little evidence of this other than hearsay, but coming from a couple reliable sources – one being Kelly Chase – there is no reason not to believe.
There is nothing wrong with bringing in fresher legs, different eyes and younger minds. You can’t just throw them into the fire though.
I’m not blind here. I know the NHL is not sending out completely inexperienced refs into playoff matchups, but they aren’t getting the right kind of seasoning regardless.
There is just no consistency in hockey officiating. It might be one of the hardest games to ref, but even within a game or within a shift there is no consistency to what is called or not.
A hook is not always a hook. A slash is not always a slash. Sometimes scrums get matching penalties, other times each team loses a man. People try to explain it, but there is only vague logic behind most of it.
The Blues radio crew is one of the better ones I have heard. They do have a hometown slant, but are rarely actually critical of officials.
Lately, it seems like all they do is complain about calls. In a position where the league could get you in trouble if they wanted, you have to figure they aren’t just blowing smoke for the sake of the home fans.
There are bad calls being made. It ruins games.
Of course, there are those out there who make excuses. Refs don’t cost you games they say. Teams should be more disciplined or they should overcome it.
Much of that is true. However, when you have a tight hockey game and a team gains a clear advantage from something that should never have been called, it has a huge impact.
There are a million and one things that can go differently in any game to change outcomes. So, it is true you cannot simply blame an outcome on one call or non-call. It can still change how things play out.
Teams may never know if they could have scored first if they suddenly give up a powerplay goal. You can say be disciplined, but if fans are up screaming at their televisions, you cannot expect players to react as well. They are humans, not robots.
Officials in any sport have one of the hardest jobs ever. You have hundreds or thousands of people seeing things from different angles than you have and with replay.
I have no doubt that refs try their very best to call the game as close to perfect as they can. They are getting too much wrong though.
It’s not because there is more scrutiny or more camera angles. They are simply getting too many things wrong. It’s not a percentage game. They may get 95% of calls right. If the 5% you don’t deeply impacts a game though, that’s just too much.
Fans will always have their crazy theories. We’re always going to feel like something went against us when our team craps the bed.
When games are legitimately altered though, there is true gripe to be had. The NHL needs to either season up their officials quickly or change how the game is called.
The playoffs are too important. There is no more argument to be made about human error or the beauty of the game. Get the calls right and get your heads out of your rear ends.