Tag: obstruction

Wes McCauley

“Mirroring” is the new obstruction


By now you know all about how scoring is down and many fear the dark days of the dead puck era have returned. One of the issues is the lack of penalties called and the very apparent creep of obstruction back in the game.

The New York Times explains what’s got everyone in a bind is called “mirroring” and league officials know all about it.

Called mirroring, it occurs when a defenseman skates in the same route taken by a forechecker trying to get to a puck that has been dumped into the offensive zone. The defenseman skates slightly in front of him, mirroring his path at a slower speed and preventing him from proceeding at full speed.

The managers might see it as slippage in the standard, but referees might view it as not explicitly violating the rules.

“It’s not holding or interference, it’s just getting in the guy’s way,” said Gary Meagher, the league’s vice president of communications, who is closely involved in the managers’ meetings.

You’ll see it in every game on dumps to the corner: The forechecker getting essentially faceguarded as he skates towards the puck. According to how the rule book is written regarding interference, mirroring seems to be allowed (Rule 56.1 makes it sound OK).

Call it mirroring all you want, but obstruction is obstruction no matter what name you give it. If the league is worried about the game being gummed up, making a move to penalize mirroring would take care of things until a new way to cheat the rules is discovered.

Is obstruction back? Some Penguins say it is

David Clarkson, Joe Vitale, Brooks Orpik

If you’ve been noticing that scoring is down this season, you’re not alone. There are a lot more 2-1 games than you’ll find 4-3 games it seems and that’s got some people wondering if the NHL’s old ways of clogging everything up around the ice are back.

One of those teams curious about that being the case is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have seen their power play opportunities decrease drastically since the start of January and they think that officials are letting the clutching and grabbing slide a bit.

Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review hears it from Brooks Orpik about how things used to be and how they are now.

“After the (2004-05) lockout, if a guy chipped a puck by you, you couldn’t touch him,” he said. “If you did, it was a penalty every single time. You just had to turn and go get it.”

That much is absolutely true, especially when you look at the number of penalties called in that first season after the lockout. Orpik says it’s different now though.

“(The NHL) didn’t tell us they were going to go easy on us (defensemen),” Orpik said. “But it’s pretty obvious that it has changed.”

Finding that balance between too many and too few penalties is hard. The NHL likes scoring to be up a bit as goals get people excited and jumping out of their chairs for one reason or another.

That said, they don’t want the games to turn into dump-and-chase fests either. Having a 2-1 game is great if the pace is breakneck and the action is intense but it’s up to the officials to make sure the ice stays open to allow for that.

NHL names officials for 2011 playoffs; Will they actually use their whistles?

Vancouver Canucks v Atlanta Thrashers

The NHL named the 20 referees and 20 officials who will legislate the 2011 playoffs today. Some of the familiar names include Paul Devorski, Stephen Walkom and Dan O’Halloran, but if you really need to know every guy you’ll eventually heckle during the next two-plus months, they’re listed at the bottom of this post.

This list of referees brings up an important question, though: will the NHL send them a message to actually make calls during the playoffs or will the pervasive “just let ’em play” illogic prevail?

Instead of boring you with fractions and decimals, the easiest way to notice the fact that the league is starting to sink back into those ugly, pre-lockout habits can be seen in the scoring leaders. Daniel Sedin’s 104 points is the lowest Art Ross Trophy-winning total since Martin St. Louis won it with 94 in 2003-04 while Corey Perry was the only player in the league to hit 50 goals.

Referees are turning a blind eye to instances of obstruction and interference more and more, if you ask me (and many other increasingly concerned observers). One might look at a subtle pick or a moderate grab as a “part of the game,” but these tactics allow slow, lower-skill players to dumb the game down when hockey should be opening every door for the fastest, most talented guys to shine.

As Mike Chen astutely points out, the beginning of the 2011 playoffs could provide the league with an opportunity to send a message about making the proper calls rather than swallowing whistles to silence angry fans and whiny coaches.

More and more first-time and returning fans will gravitate toward these games as the postseason goes on, so why not display the sport at its best instead of allowing mediocre teams to muck things up with their clutching and grabbing?

Chances are, things will just get worse because of that aforementioned “just let ’em play” mentality, especially since the league has been getting off the hook lately. For the last three seasons, luck has been on the NHL’s side when it comes to high-profile, elite teams meeting in the Stanley Cup finals. If they let the on-ice mugging (er, I mean “defense”) go too far, we could be in for another New Jersey Devils-Anaheim Ducks-type snooze fest.

Hopefully the cream will rise to the top, but here are the list of officials who will be given the power to allow the best to be the best (or not). (List via NHL.com.)

Referees (20):
Paul Devorski
Eric Furlatt
Marc Joannette
Greg Kimmerly
Steve Kozari
Dennis LaRue
Chris Lee
Wes McCauley
Brad Meier
Dan O’Halloran
Dan O’Rourke
Tim Peel
Brian Pochmara
Kevin Pollock
Chris Rooney
Francois St. Laurent
Kelly Sutherland
Stephen Walkom
Ian Walsh
Brad Watson

Linesmen (20):
Derek Amell
Steve Barton
David Brisebois
Scott Cherrey
Greg Devorski
Pat Driscoll
Ryan Galloway
Shane Heyer
Brad Kovachik
Brad Lazarowich
Steve Miller
Jean Morin
Brian Murphy
Jonny Murray
Derek Nansen
Tim Nowak
Pierre Racicot
Tony Sericolo
Jay Sharrers
Mark Wheler