Bad calls, sloppy play haunted Detroit; Not a conspiracy

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redwingsref.jpgLast night’s San Jose Sharks-Detroit Red Wings game was exciting, but some of the penalty calls generated justified controversy. (Enough to make me feel sympathy for Todd Bertuzzi? Never.) Still, to blame the Red Wings’ loss strictly on officiating overlooks the various ways that the Sharks took the game to their opponents.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski summarizes this point quite nicely (and also includes a gallery of reactions from Detroit newspapers and bloggers).

There is every reason to believe that the “conspiracy” or “bias” against Detroit is a series of painful coincidences connected, and amplified, by a minority of Red Wings fans who wear institutional scheming like a warm blanket to shelter them from Detroit’s occasional failures as a team.

The officiating last night was atrocious. It was unforgiveable. There have been a few instances in these playoffs in which the referees seemed as though they were getting paid by the ill-conceived penalty, and last night was one of them. Ten power plays for the San Jose Sharks in their win, and four for the Wings. It was an embarrassment.

But it was also an isolated situation. Coaches work the refs in every series, and the refs respond. When Tomas Holmstrom starts getting hit with interference penalties, it isn’t an edict from Gary Bettman; it’s an official taking the opposing coach’s words into consideration and acting on them.

I’ve often felt that many Red Wings fans develop their conspiracy theories for two main reasons: 1) their team makes the playoffs every year so they simply have a deeper war chest of complaints and 2) perhaps, dare I say it, they’re spoiled following the best organization in professional sports.

Why would the league bite one of the strongest hands that feeds its revenue? Detroit is a fantastic American market with oodles and noodles of history. They bring in ratings and surely sell plenty of their gorgeous red jerseys. It boggles my mind that the NHL would do anything but enhance such a franchise.

Then again, this is the NHL, so maybe the tin foil brigade are indeed justified in their humorous paranoia.