Monday, April 27, 2015

Second Shooter: Why The Pageau Goal Was Not Reviewable

Down by a goal and facing elimination in Game 6, the Ottawa Senators were playing for their lives Sunday evening against the Montreal Canadiens.

It looked like the Senators tied it up at 1 when Mark Borowiecki's shot was mishandled by Carey Price and Jean-Gabriel Pageau swooped in and knocked in the rebound.

The problem: before Pageau shot the puck, referee Chris Lee blew the play dead when he lost site of the puck. No goal. 

Here's the play as it unfolded:

There has been some talk that the goal was reviewable. The play, however, was not reviewable. While it should clearly have been a goal, this was not an instance where the play could have been overturned via video replay. 

The confusion stems from the NHL's summary of its new rules, which was published back in September. In the summary, the NHL announced that the new video review rules would "allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck."

The wording is sufficiently broad to capture the Pageau goal since it basically says a play can be reviewed if a goal was scored after the play was blown dead.

Here's the problem: the summary of the rule is not the actual rule. The actual rule, which is Rule 38.4(viii), is a lot narrower in scope. 

This is what it says:
The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). For example (but not limited to), pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that hit the spectator netting prior to being directed into the goal, pucks that enter the net undetected by the Referee, etc. This would also include situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).

The key part of this rule is the reference to "continuous play". The play is only reviewable if we are dealing with a continuous or uninterrupted play. 

Borowiecki took the shot, Price stopped it, lost sight of it and then Pageau jumped on the loose puck. 
That is not considered a continuous or uninterrupted play. 

It has two distinct components: the Borowiecki shot and the Pageau shot.

If Borowiecki had taken the shot and it got by Price after a quick whistle, then it would have been a continuous play and therefore reviewable. The second shooter (Pageau) broke up the play, which is ultimately fatal if you were looking for video review.

For that reason, the play was never reviewed. Rule 38.4 more appropriately applies to a scenario where a shot is taken, the goalie gets a piece of it, the whistle blows and the pucks slides or trickles into the net without anyone else laying a stick on it. That's what happened in Vancouver when Jannik Hansen was credited with a goal after the play was reviewed:

One more thing. Price is a great goaltender who doesn't give up many rebounds. It's possible that had another goalie been in that net (like Jimmy Howard), the whistle would have been blown later. Effectively, Price's reputation - and not Price - made that save.

And another thing. We too often hear in similar circumstances that the team victimized by a terrible call had plenty of other opportunities to score but couldn't capitalize. The idea of course is to diminish the importance of the bad call. At a fundamental level, this statement is flawed. In sports today, there is not only parity among teams but also among athletes and often times games turn on a single moment. 

And Pageau was one such moment. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

TSN Article: Why Aaron Hernandez Will Spend His Life in Prison

Aaron Hernandez has been convicted of first degree murder. Click here to read my TSN article on how we got here, what this means and what's next.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Subban On Stone: No Ordinary Slash

In Game 1 between the Canadiens and Senators, PK Subban slashed Mark Stone sending the forward to the ice in obvious discomfort. Subban was assessed a major for slashing, which in turn calls for a game misconduct (I wrote about that here during the game because I was lonely).

As a result of the slash, Stone suffered a micro-fracture in his wrist together with ligament damage. Subban was not suspended for the slash.

Slashing is not an uncommon occurrence in the NHL. We see it repeatedly every game. It's part of the game and part of the culture.

Now to the hard part because I'm a diehard Habs fan. I love my Habs. I once pretended Jean-Jacques Daigneault was my father. I also pretended to lift André Racicot's spirits.

Subban's slash was no ordinary slash. At the time of the slash, the puck was nowhere near Subban or Stone. Erik Karlsson had the puck at the Habs blue line and Subban and Stone were in front of the net.

But puck location by itself is insufficient to characterize the Subban slash as crossing the line. Those types of slashes away from the play happen all the time. I was slashed by an old lady at the grocery store today while buying some milk. Again, it happens a lot.

The problem with the Subban slash is that it's more like a tomahawk chop. That together with the location of the puck makes the hit dangerous, reckless and frankly unacceptable. 

Look for yourself:

Subban rears back with his stick and chops down on Stone. This isn't hockey. I'm sorry.

For a Habs fan, Subban's actions are gravely disappointing. This is a person who would have welcomed the captaincy of the Canadiens. This entire incident - from the slash that put his team a man down for 5 minutes to the half-dressed tantrum he threw after being tossed - suggests he still has some maturing to do. This is not how leaders behave. If Subban wants to be a captain one day, he needs to act like a professional.

By way of full disclosure, I am a big Subban fan. Subban is a spectacular and gifted defenceman. He’s a terrific skater, has a great shot, is physical, has great vision and is clutch. In short, Subban is pretty special. I wrote about it here

That being said, Subban can do better - and he will do better.

Now on to the absence of a suspension. For me at least, the snapshot above clearly demonstrates that this was no ordinary slash. Subban's actions, in my view, are suspendable. And let's not get distracted by intention, which is too often misapplied. So long as Subban intended to slash Stone, he is responsible for the harm that follows. That is a basic legal principle.  The other issue of intent - whether Subban intended to injure Stone - is a separate consideration that has the effect of increasing a suspension (and not vacating it altogether).

Subban intended the slash, and by extension, is responsible for the harm that followed - Stone's broken wrist. Yes, a suspension is warranted.

It is not difficult to understand why Subban escaped suspension. The hockey culture has indulged similar behavior in the past. It's part of the game so to speak.

The problem is that it shouldn't be. As a result of a reckless and ill-conceived slash, hockey fans will either be deprived of watching the likely Calder trophy winner play, or best case scenario, will get a watered down version. That's a damn shame, particularly for a team that had an unprecedented and historic run just to get into the playoffs.

The league should be protecting its players from unnecessary injuries.

This isn't good for the game.

And a suspension would have sent that very message.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why P.K. Subban Was Tossed from Game 1 after Slash on Stone

P.K. Subban received a game misconduct for his slash on Mark Stone. For many, this was a surprise to see. How on earth did the referee make that call?

It all starts with Rule 61.3 of the NHL Rule Book, which provides as follows:

61.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who slashes an opponent. When injury occurs, a major penalty must be assessed under this rule.

This Rule doesn't require that the player who was slashed be injured as a result of the slash (although it would probably help). Rather, the referee can assess a major penalty if in his discretion the slash was sufficiently "severe". That's a judgement call. 

Ok that's the rule for the Major Penalty. How do we go from the major penalty to a game misconduct? That's Rule 61.5:

61.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – Whenever a major penalty is assessed for slashing, a game misconduct penalty must also be imposed.

So the referee in his discretion believed the slash was sufficiently severe as to merit a major penalty. As a result, he then had no choice but to toss Subban from the game as per Rule 61.5.

It's not relevant that Stone came back to the game. All the referee has to believe is that the slash was severe enough to warrant a major penalty. Of course, if Stone didn't drop to the ice in a lot of pain, the call might have been different.

On to period three.