There are two main things – well maybe three, but we’ll go with two – that you can always count on from St. Louis Blues fans. One, is to create controversy over goaltending whether there needs to be or not.
The second is to think the officials are biased against the Blues. Of course, just about every fan base believes this about the referees, but they definitely have a checkered past with St. Louis.
For example, it seemed like there was always a flood of calls against the Blues any time Bill McCreary was the ref. Coincidentally, it felt like the Blues usually lost those games too. Of course, that’s all circumstantial and there was likely no connection, but as a fan, you don’t see it that way.
For years, it felt like the Blues were playing against two opponents. It was always Chicago and the refs or the Kings and the refs against the Note.
Blues fans will never forget the hand pass either. In our rational moments, you understand that the rules don’t allow for video review of that.
But, when it has such a clear impact on the outcome and it is bewildering how all four officials could not see anything, it needed to be looked at. Thankfully, that team managed to use it as fuel.
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As bad as all those past instances were, 2021 is something completely different. We’ve always harped on officiating, but you could say that the team still needed to be better or that it’s the hardest sport to ref.
In 2021, you honestly have to wonder how some of these guys got their jobs. It no longer matters if they are fresh out of the AHL or wherever, because the calls being made or missed should not happen at any level of the sport.
We have literally seen players put in the box for tapping an opponent’s stick with their own. This is not a bias thing either, because plenty of Blues power plays should not have happened for the same reasons.
On February 15, Ryan O’Reilly was all but put in a sleeper hold and hauled down. He ended up being the one sent to the box for interference. Again, you can make the case he cut across the opponent’s path illegally, but there’s no justification for not giving out both minors.
O’Reilly is a perfect example of what is wrong with officiating in 2021’s NHL. The guy has been a finalist for the Lady Byng trophy three years in a row and received votes for it seven years in a row.
The most penalty minutes he has ever accrued is 18 and that was when he was a rookie. Suddenly, under the insanity that is the current rule of law in the NHL, O’Reilly has racked up 10 penalty minutes in 16 games.
He had 10 penalty minutes in 71 games in 2019-20. O’Reilly had 12 penalty minutes the year prior and only two total penalty minutes in all of 2017-18.
We are supposed to believe that a player that, at most, averaged one minor every 13 or 14 games suddenly lost his composure? He’s averaging a minor every third game at this pace and picked up two penalties in one game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Several fans have discussed this with me and I am normally completely on board. In most years, the players just have to adapt to the officiating.
You need to keep both hands on your stick and keep the stick on the ice. That makes sense.
These calls make no sense. There is no way to adapt when a penalty is handed out for something that happens 50 times a game and the official picks the least egregious one to dole out punishment.
There is no way to adapt when officials are falling for an opponent grabbing your stick being hooking more than soccer officials fall for a dive in the penalty box. There has to be a way to get back to a level of consistency that is just irritating, like in the past, instead of insanity as it is now.
However, perhaps this should be expected. The league cannot hand out punishment with any consistency either.
Several teams have been impacted by this, such as Buffalo and others. We see it more often since we all focus more on the Blues.
St. Louis has lost two players to concussion protocol in 16 games and one other missed a game, but returned shortly after. The only time anything ended in a suspension, amusingly enough, was when Zach Sanford was clipped with a shoulder and he stayed in the game and missed no time.
Robert Bortuzzo was hit high, with a shoulder and the league shrugged and said the injury was due to the glass. Tyler Bozak was laid out with a reverse hit at center ice when the puck was near the boards. The NHL said it felt the incident was handled by the officials on the ice. Marco Scandella suffered a dirty hit into the boards against the San Jose Sharks and there was crickets.
Yet, because Sammy Blais chose to continue his current path and had his shoulder clip a guy’s chin, instead of changing his path and going right through the body and injuring himself and his opponent, he gets suspended two games. There was no history of fines or suspension, but jump right to two games.
So, if the league cannot have consistency, why should we expect the officials? The reality is we should not, but the NHL needs to look itself in the mirror.
You want more goals and you want more offense, but a constant stream of power plays is not the way to get it. There’s no flow to a game that is perpetually on special teams.
It’s actually very boring and frustrating. That’s all the more difficult because of the Blues’ power play struggles, but just in general all it is is defenders clearing the puck or passing with very little action going on.
If you get a sustained power play pressure, sure, there’s some excitement. Most fans would rather see a game flow back and forth, zone to zone.
While I personally love the game of soccer, hockey is becoming an acting job like soccer has. If a player loses a stick, the arms automatically fly into the air and the head is on a swivel looking for the ref.
More often than not, it’s getting called too. It’s taking the spirit out of the game.
The people in the league office, and even the refs, have to be fans too. What good is the game if we can’t have some puck battles without the ref’s arm going up every time?
Don’t get me wrong. The Blues have taken a load of dumb penalties.
There’s a lot that’s been called that shouldn’t even be called in a peewee game. There’s also a lot not called that needs to be as well.
The NHL has to take an introspective look at this stuff. Whether it’s fining officials for horrendous mistakes or not allowing postseason access, something has to be done.
It’s no longer solely the players that need to adapt. The refs, or the league, needs to adapt too.