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Who Can We Blame?

April 19, 2007

thornton.jpg

Ok…let’s be real honest for a minute (both Preds and Shark fans). If we look at the way these games have been called we have to admit that the penalty calling has favored the Sharks. So much so that it has taken the Preds out of their game and allowed the Sharks to dictate the tempo of this series.

I have really tried to stay away from this subject (because I did not want to sound like a whining fan and be compared to Ron Wilson of the Sharks who complains at the drop of a hat) but this is getting crazy.

The hooking penalty on Jordin Tootoo still has me scratching my head this morning and apparently it has the Preds scratching their heads too.

Barry Trotz had this to say about the penalty following the game last night:

“We thought Cheechoo was getting the penalty because he basically pulled Tootoo off stride. Our goalie started coming to bench and all of a sudden (the Sharks) got the call. That one was a little perplexing to me.’’

Here’s the deal…goalies have seen a ton of penalties in their career and they don’t usually leave the net unless they are certain which way a call is going. What are these ref’s seeing? With all these calls going against us the Preds are playing a very conservative game physically and getting dominated by the Sharks. They were able to wear us down while we were on the penalty kill and just totally push us around physically.

I’ve had some great comments from some Sharks fans saying that this game and series have been allot closer than we may feel it has…that’s encouraging but it doesn’t help the fact that we are down 3 games to 1.

The good news about the NHL playoffs is that we get seven games. The bad news is that we have to win three in a row against a team that has our number right now.

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19 comments

  1. Joe I have to agree with you 110%. I even made the comment to my wife last night that if I didn’t know better I would think there’s a conspiracy against Nashville being in the playoffs. The refing has been totally one sided. Even if a Sharks fan would take off their teal colored glasses for a moment and look at the game as a whole I think they would admit that themselves. You have to. And I totally agree that this issue has caused the Preds to not play as physical. However, Friday night will be a totally different story I think. Nothing to loose. Go out there and beat them physically and win the game. Obviously now this is a MUST win.

    Where’s Paul Kariya? Anybody seen him? I love PK, even have his jersey but he has not showed up at all. That has to change for many reasons. One it’s a contract year for him. Not a good playoff run for someone that will demand a big contract next year. Two, if he don’t show up we don’t go deep in the playoffs. Period.

    I would also have to agree with some other blogs I have read that there is something going on in this Preds locker room that we have no idea about. What is that? Is it the team doesn’t buy into Trotz’s system? Oh and by the way if we are one and done again Trotz is gone. At least he better be. But I digress. This team is lacking chemistry and that upsets me on many levels because the talent on this team is incredible and should be above a locker room tiff. However, if you don’t buy into the system you may not be able to get over that.

    Thanks for letting me rant. GO PREDS!!


  2. I’m an old school Preds fan, as you know; more specifically, I’m an old school NHL fan. My interest hasn’t been there for this Preds team this season. Why? Am I still upset about the lockout? Partially. More than that though, I’ve had this horrible feeling all season long that this Preds team is the equivalant of those dominant regular season Ottawa Senators teams from a few years back. The bottom line is that the regular season means absolutely nothing. Your team has to be built to win in the playoffs. The knock on those Ottawa teams was that they didn’t have the grit to get through a playoff run. The Preds dress some gritty guys in Tootoo, Hordichuk, Hartnell, and Webber, but it’s still not enough. Grit without playoff experience isn’t enough. The addition of aging superstars in Kariya, Forsberg, and Arnott wasn’t enough to make this team playoff ready either. Here’s what you have look forward to Preds fans: years of great regular seasons and early round playoff exits. Bring back Boughner, Krivokrasov, Ronning, Cote, and Captain Tom and I’ll come back to the GEC. That way we can be excited to actually make the playoffs regardless of the outcome.


  3. I called Oliver Stone, and he told me this: Conspiracy? Probably not. But does the NHL have a motive to have San Jose get an edge over Nashville? Sure. The Bay Area market is the nation’s 5th largest television market. Nashville is 30th. The NHL is dire straights when it comes to a television contract. When your Stanley Cup playoffs are between Bill Dance and PBR, you know you have a problem. When Billiards on ESPN pulls better numbers than your marquee events, you have a problem. The NHL, like any other pro sports league, is a business first, and entertainment for fans second. The bulk of their money is made via television contracts. (NFL 1.3 billion with ESPN, NHL 60 million with VS.) So, they certainly have a motive to encourage the outcome of games. Do they have the opportunity? They could not pay off the players. The only players who have the ability to control the outcome, the stars, are paid way to much. However, the NHL could certainly insert officials in a series who tend to call games either more or less physical. And of course, the way a game is called makes all the difference particularly with teams that are so diametrically opposed in their style of play. Hockey, like basketball, is a game with very subjective rules. They are subjective to the interpretation of the official. So the NHL has both the motive and opportunity to encourage the outcome of games. I do not believe that the NHL outright fixes games. But just like the NBA, they want their marquee players and teams, and largest markets to be playing for as long as is possible.


  4. Figurehead…your Ottawa comparison is right on the money! That is some great insight.

    Micheal E – good point on the market size. While I don’t think the league is mandating anythign like that I do wonder what is happening when SJ is not getting called for things that we are.

    There were times last night when I was shocked that SJ did not get called…little did I know that it is now legal to tackle a player and sit on his shoulders. Cool!


  5. Michael, I don’t think this is the case. The NHL actually has more incentive for Nashville to be successful. The Sharks sell out most games whether or not they are winning. It’s been 16 years since they came into the NHL. They have a devoted fanbase. Right now Nashville is still learning about the Predators and the NHL.

    In the Bay Area, hockey is last in the big sports. There was an Anaheim / San Jose game a few weeks back that got bumped by basketball _AND_ pre-season baseball.

    I agree completely with you about Versus. Local cable here in the bay area doesn’t have Versus on analog cable. Luckily Fox Sports is on analog. Versus is also not carried in hotels around the country. I loved it when ESPN and ESPN2 carried NHL games because I could be guaranteed 1 or 2 games almost every night- even if I was traveling. I think ESPN wanted a better deal than the NHL was ready to give. Plus with the Versus contract, they get NBC games. I would love to see the NHL go back to ESPN.

    This game was called very closely because Bettman was in the house. I look at the penalties as fatigue by the Nashville and Sharks players. Look at the penalties 5 Hooks, 1 Goaltender Interference, and 2 Elbows:

    1st period
    3:57 Ryane Clowe: 2 Minutes for Hooking Paul Kariya
    11:59 Scott Hartnell: 2 Minutes for Goaltender Interference Evgeni Nabokov

    OK, the Hartnell penalty was probably not fatigue. The Clowe penalty happened when Kariya beat Clowe. He reached out and hooked him.

    2nd period
    3:46 Peter Forsberg: 2 Minutes for Elbowing Jonathan Cheechoo
    6:23 David Legwand: 2 Minutes for Hooking Milan Michalek
    10:33 Jordin Tootoo: 2 Minutes for Hooking Milan Michalek
    14:13 Mike Grier: 2 Minutes for Elbowing Kimmo Timonen

    The elbowing penalties were a little taste of the nastiness. The hooking penalties on Michalek happen because he’s like Kariya and is VERY explosive off the blocks. Both calls were against players who got beat in the defensive zone.

    3rd Period
    10:02 Alexander Radulov: 2 Minutes for Hooking Bill Guerin
    15:40 Ryane Clowe: 2 Minutes for Hooking David Legwand

    Again both hooking penalties happened in the defensive zone against players that got beat.

    -Don


  6. This is the kind of talk that fans get into that is a waste of words. There is no conspiracy. If the “memo” saying let the Sharks win were ever leaked it would be the end of the NHL. And by a memo I mean any sort of convincing evidence. I was at the game last night and there were a couple of calls both ways that were really marginal. The problem the Preds have is that the Sharks are bigger and that means that the Preds sometimes have to hold, pull, cross-check or impead the bigger player. This is a problem the Sharks used to have. They have purposefully gotten bigger at the expense of a little speed to win in the playoffs. Also the Sharks had a problem on the penalty kill so they specifically went out and got Grier and Brown. Grier may be the best player in the series (along with Forsberg).

    I cannot believe how good Forsberg is. On every shift he is in exactly the right spot and his edge is just enough to upset opposition players, but rarely enough to get penalties.


  7. Jason, remember the NY Rangers team of 2001-2002 when they had all these great players:
    Eric Lindros, Theo Fleury, Brian Leetch, Petr Nedved, Mark Messier, Pavel Bure, and Mike Richter in goal. Pre-season everyone was crowning them the cup winners. They went 36-38-4 and didn’t make the playoffs. Great players don’t make a great team, you have to have that chemistry.

    The other issue could be that players are hurt. Last year after the series with the Preds, a lot of the Sharks were hurt. Result, out in 6.

    Again, I wish this was the WCF. Neither of these teams should be out in the first round.

    -Don


  8. Don,
    I do remember those teams, but I don’t think you can compare the two. We only have a few named players. Mainly Kariya, Forsberg and Arnott. Vokoun, as much as I love him, is no Richter. That Rangers team thrived off skill. Yes, we have skilled players but Predators hockey has always been about work ethic. The Predators have always thrived off of their work ethic and IMO that is what has been missing from this team most of the year. There have been the occasional moments when you would see that shine but not on a consistant basis. I would also look to the coaching in both scenarios. I can not remember who coached that Rangers team but I have been saying for a while that Trotz has a problem motivating this team. Granted these are millionaires playing hockey and conventional wisdom would tell us that you do not have to motivate professional athletes but unfortunatly that is not the case and I don’t feel Trotz has done that well at all.

    Dan you are correct though in that it all boils down to chemistry. And sadly enough “Dream Teams” don’t always equal wins due to a lack of chemistry


  9. Correction…….That Rangers tema TRIED to thrive off skill. Obviously it didn’t work for them.


  10. Respectfully, your post is delusional.

    Look: NHL officiating is uniformly terrible. NHL referees look professional only by comparison to the NBA and the NFL. So have there been blown calls? Sure. I didn’t agree with the penalty on Tootoo; I thought it was ticky-tack, and could’ve just as easily gone to Cheechoo instead. (Though, I imagine even Preds fans would have to admit that Jordin Tootoo has done a pretty admirable job of exhausting any benefit-of-the-doubt he has left with league officials.)

    On the other side of the ledger my mind wanders back to Game 2, when Peter Forsberg threw an absolutely blatant dive to draw a penalty on Mike Grier. And then there’s Joe Thornton, who’s getting slashed on the hands or stick just about every other shift, and who took a high stick in the face last night without a whistle.

    The bottom line is that the complaint about the officiating being one-sided, biased against Nashville, is just pathetic. The incompetence of NHL officials affects both teams about equally; both teams kill penalties they probably shouldn’t have to kill, and both teams get power plays that aren’t warranted. Beyond that, the Sharks were the third-least penalized team overall during the regular season; they’re one of the most disciplined teams in the league. The Preds have been on a parade to the penalty box because they can’t deal with the Sharks’ cycle without hooking, holding, or tripping; because they’ve been getting worn down and have stopped moving their feet; and because they’ve been getting frustrated and losing their heads. It’s just that simple.

    The complaints about Ron Wilson being a whiner are also pretty pathetic. The man was justifiably incensed that Hartnell and then Radulov took out two of his players, the former with a borderline hit and the latter with a ridiculous cheap shot. Meanwhile Barry Trotz was trying to curry favor with the media and the league by downplaying both hits, claiming, absurdly, that neither was even worth a minor penalty. If Wilson’s reaction constituted “whining”, then so does your post.


  11. Don,
    Intelligent comments and valid points. Allow me to play the skeptics role. I guess the point of my comments is that the NHL has both the motive and the opportunity to sway a series. I use the word “sway” intentionally. I am not saying that the NHL is “fixing” the games ala the Black Sox scandal in 1919 or the WWE. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough for One Sharks Fan. My apologies to you, sir. However, the NHL can, at least, double their revenue with a quality television licensing deal. When the NHL assigns officials to a series they know how those officials will call the games based on that official’s history of calling games. Is there really any denying that teams tend to play better when certain officials are calling games due to that official’s style? Is there any denying that the NHL assigns officials to a series (or game) based on how they want the series (or game) called? Would you admit that when there is some animosity between teams that the league will mandate that the game officials crack down on the teams? If they do that, and I think they do, then the precedent has then been set to alter the way the game is called to bring about the desired outcome, in this case to avoid a brawl. In the case of the Preds-Sharks series or any other series, this is to bring about the prolonged involvement of the major market in the playoffs. Does the large market win in every series? Of course, not. But again, the league is not fixing the games. But influencing? They could be.

    To the Sharks’ fans: Keep in mind that the NHL is a for profit business. To make money is the reason the league exists. To say that the NHL would never do something slightly unethical to make billions of more dollars, is nothing short of naivety.


  12. This is pathetic. There is no conspiracy. Last year it was Edmonton/Carolina in the finals. Is that the dream revenue match-up the league wants?

    The following article sums it up — blaming referees is for losers.

    http://www.thehockeynews.com/en/news/news.asp?idNews=24423


  13. by, neither San Jose nor Nashville fit the definition of a “large market”. (I don’t know how much you know about Bay Area geography, but suffice to say that the Sharks’ popularity tapers off pretty quickly as far north as San Mateo and as far south as Gilroy; they’re not pulling many fans down from San Francisco or Oakland, on 101 or 280 in rush hour traffic). The only big-market teams in the playoffs are the Rangers and, arguably, the Red Wings.

    So even assuming that the NHL was willing to completely destroy whatever is left of its credibility after the lockout by trying to influence the outcome of playoff series, it would make absolutely no sense to do so in this series.


  14. Er, direct that to Michael, sorry.


  15. Okay, this has kind of been crossing my mind here and there- What makes everyone think that the Predators are outplaying the Sharks 5on5? They don’t have any more ‘good’ shots or scoring chances, they committ much more penalties, they’re giving up better scoring chances, and the Sharks have more goals. The PK has been Nashville’s saving grace, and they are even getting quality scoring chances on the PK. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
    And about the refs, there is no conspiracy. For every penalty that the Sharks get aways with, there is a penalty the Preds are getting away with. The Sharks are playing a much more disciplined game, and Nashville is a highly penalized team anyway- it’s just how they play. With the Sharks up a man for so much time in the game, it’s hard and stupid to take a penalty. The Sharks take very little penalties, and have less of an opportunity to when the Preds are in the box for 14 minutes a game.
    BTW, as a Flyers fan, I now fully realize why Forsberg is someone you like to have on your team, but you would hate to play against. He’s skilled, quick, makes good passes, and plays a physical game. He commits more penalties than anyone on the ice (said the same when he was in Philly), but gets away with a ton of them.


  16. Hey Michael,

    I have made the same statements about refs in the past during Sharks games. There isn’t a big conspiracy here in my eyes. I know that’s rough to take coming from a fan of the “other” team. There are some refs which will call a game more tightly on some teams than others. For the Sharks, Mick McGough is that ref. We used to have a hell of a time in my eyes with pretty-boy Fraser as well. Any ref at any time is capable of swinging a game. Usually we will see multiple refs over the course of a series however, so that makes it a little difficult to change the entire series if your team is working hard. Couple that with the switch to the two-ref system and the fact that the NHL reviews these games in order to keep the officiating at it’s highest level. For these reasons, anything but a full-fledged White-Sox conspiracy couldn’t happen. Based on the checks and balances in place in the NHL it would be difficult to pull off that conspiracy.

    Look I bitched and moaned (along with thousands of others) when the NHL looked the other way on Hartnell’s knee penalty and denied an extra game. I know we are going to disagree on that point, so I tried to make it as non-political as possible. Games go the way they go. Calls get missed even in a 2-ref system. I am sorry I have to disagree with you on the conspiracy charge. I have made it myself.

    I am not sure how NHL refs are placed in a series. Here’s an article asking for refs to be kept in a series from last year: http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=86224&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0&sid=30ef47b18ca10b0ec75d2696c3c57c68

    Not sure if I agree 100%, but it’s got good talking points.

    In response to the large / small market: In the first year the sharks made the playoffs in 1994, they beat the #1 ranked RedWings in the first round. Based on your claim that would never have happened. I can pick some other series out there over the years where this has happened if you need me to.

    I would say that if the NHL becomes like WWE, it would have less of a fan base.

    If the NHL did anything it would be something with schedule of games. That’s probably the biggest area where most teams get screwed. The Sharks head out on a 8-10 game road trip with at least 2 or 3 back to backs every year in February. All so we can have a stupid tennis tournament. Not to mention the fact there are no NHL teams between San Jose and Denver and that Dallas is in the Pacific (!!!!) division. I can go on and on here.

    I agree with BC. We don’t have many fans outside of the south bay area. Most people don’t travel that far because of traffic, or are fans of other sports. Include me in that bunch until 1994. I was a bandwagon jumper, that decided to stay on.

    I hope you guys can get the chance to watch or listen to an out of town feed once in awhile. I don’t mean anything disparaging, but I travel a lot so I will occasionally only get the “other side” of the game. You can really learn a lot about both teams that way.

    You guys have mentioned the work-ethic aspect of the Preds in a couple posts I have read. I would have to say San Jose mirrors a lot of that over the years. Especially the 1998-2003 seasons during the Darryl Sutter reign. And even this year. I see a lot of those teams in the Preds.

    Hopefully that gives those of you down on the Preds right now hope. We have gotten lucky with a lot of great drafts these past few years. We got people like Cheechoo, Michalek, and Bernier. We have also had to trade some of our best young players away to get big names like Thornton into the lineup.

    I really like the chemistry of the Sharks right now. I think adding players like Rivet, Guerin, and Grier were huge for this team. If you look at last night’s game Grier was basically shutting down the neutral zone whenever he was on the ice.

    Anyway, until tomorrow. Scream loud.

    -Don


  17. Jason,

    Yeah sorry to be unclear there. My post was trying to illustrate that it’s not always the most talented team or one with the biggest stars that gets the win.

    The Sharks don’t have a lot of named players either. You hear about Cheechoo, Thornton, Nabokov and Marleau. They just added Guerin. I don’t know too many people that know other Sharks players. I mean I know how good Marc-Edouard Vlasic is, but did you before the series?

    I would call Forsberg one of the top 3 power forwards in the league. There was some talk when he got picked up by Nashville whether the Sharks should pick him up. I am not sure that the asking price was worth it for us. He does put butts in seats :). I remember every time Colorado would play the Sharks it would be about 25% Colorado jerseys out there. He’s our Joe Thornton.

    When the Sharks play Detroit, it’s like the changing of the guard. I would estimate it’s about 45% Detroit jerseys at the game. The worst part is, it’s the same people!

    There is something wrong with Kariya. He’s hurt and not playing up to his standards. He has always killed the Sharks. He and Selanne on the Anaheim team always lit us up for 1 or 2 apiece back in the dark days of the Sharks. Compare with Cheechoo or Marleau.

    Arnott is covering Joe T. right now. That’s the job he was given by Trotz and he’s doing it well.

    Vokoun is playing outstanding. He is a tough goalie. I would only blame him for the middle goal last night and he said he was screened. He’s better than Richter. I am biased on that. I don’t like Richter 🙂

    Ryan Suter is going to be a BIG part of any cup run Nashville makes. He will be a quiet star. He is just making good decisions.

    I still don’t discount J.P. Dumont. He makes huge plays. Compare J.P. and Grier.

    What about Steve Sullivan?

    Radulov will get his due here after this season. I said that Forsberg to Radulov was the threat for the series after the first game.

    Take heart man! Look at that first period. The Sharks were outworked, but got a great backstop from Nabokov.

    He’s playing for the Sharks goaltending coach who died right before the first game of the series. There’s not much you can do about that. And the second Nashville goal last night came from hard work too.

    You guys have a talented team who is coming up against a team with more talent than the Preds and more depth at key positions. The Preds have a few guys out with injuries and the Sharks are working them until they rack up 20+ minutes of ice time.

    Why am I inflating Nashville fans’ egos here? 🙂

    GO SHARKS 🙂 OK I feel better.


  18. Of course Forsberg is YOUR Joe Thornton.


  19. I’m going to chime in here again, and say that I agree in the main with everything Don’s said. The Predators are a good team. I just think they match up poorly with the Sharks — not so much in terms of talent, but depthwise to some extent, and playstyle-wise to a much greater extent.

    Talent, I think, is really a wash between these clubs. Pick your poison: Kariya or Marleau; Forsberg or Thornton; Radulov or Michalek; Arnott or Guerin; Dumont or Cheechoo.

    Depthwise, the Sharks can roll four lines that can absolutely kill you down low. The weakest one in terms of sustaining pressure, IMO, is the Marleau-Guerin-Pavelski/Bell one. Think about that for a minute: the Sharks’ weakest offensive unit — again, in terms of sustaining pressure — has two 30-goal scorers. By contrast, the Preds do not have four lines that have a good answer for that, nor do they have four lines that can play their own, quick-strike, transition style of hockey.

    And then there’s playstyle. How many times last night did the Sharks hold the offensive zone for long stretches, forcing one or two Nashville forwards to come back to help out their D, only to eventually clear the puck back to center onto the stick of a Shark defender who immediately dumped it right back in? A good puck-possession team creates all kinds of problems for a transition team used to scoring off the rush, because you don’t get many clean transitions.

    I won’t lie; the Predators are a very good team, and my wife will attest to the fact that there were times last night when I was squirming in my seat. Nor is this series in the bag for the Sharks, by any stretch. But I don’t think the Preds’ struggles are necessarily anybody’s fault.



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