In tonight's matchup between the Red Wings and the Predators, the referees officiating the game, Mike Leggo and Tim Peel, completely blew two major calls. I can almost promise that nothing will be done about it.
I typically don't use this space to rant but I feel I have to now because it's time for as many people as possible to speak out and let the NHL know something is wrong. The league's refs are not held publicly accountable and it's time for them to be.
Players and coaches can't publicly question the officials without being slapped with a fine. When officials are punished, it's done behind closed doors where the public can't see what action, if any, the NHL is taking to ensure the integrity of its referees.
The league acts as though there is nothing wrong with any of their officials. The league is wrong.
Since the fourth game of this young season, Detroit has been involved in only a small handful of well-officiated games. That game in Pittsburgh was officiated so poorly it was almost funny. The game two days later in Montreal was only marginally better. At Madison Square Garden later that week the officials missed easy calls on both teams.
Tonight, they blew it completely.
With just under one minute remaining in the first period and with the Red Wings carrying a 1-0 lead, Nicklas Lidstrom pinched Nashville's Scott Walker into the boards. Lidstrom put his shoulder into Walker and fought for the puck with his stick. At no point did he wrap his arms around Walker. He was called for holding.
It was clearly a bad call and Detroit captain Steve Yzerman argued the fact. He was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for disagreeing with the officials. As Yzerman headed to the dressing room at the end of the period, he continued his argument and was given a ten-minute misconduct for his efforts.
Later in the game, with Detroit attempting to tie the game, Kris Draper grabbed Predator Martin Erat as the two came to the front of the Detroit goal. Erat dropped to his knees in a clear dive. The dive went uncalled, and Draper was sent to the penalty box.
For the second time in the game, Yzerman argued a bad call and was thrown in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the Predators scored and put the Red Wings away.
On his way out of the penalty box, Yzerman continued to argue the calls and was ejected from the game. As a parting shot, Yzerman seemed to say "You [expletive]ed up."
On the ice, Yzerman spoke up about the bad calls and was penalized for it. He will be unable to speak about the calls off the ice without being fined. The refs made the wrong calls and only the NHL, policing itself without letting the public know if it is actually doing so, can do anything about it.
Judging by the officiating I've seen this year, I've come to two possible conclusions.
One is that there is a league-wide conspiracy against the Red Wings. While I'd like to think it is this easy, it simply can't be true. It would be too noticeable if the league was picking on one of the teams.
The second option is that the league just doesn't care that its officials are making the wrong calls. This prospect seems much more likely to me, and it frightens me.
The league needs to publicly discipline its officials when they make mistakes so that the fans of the game know that something is being done to correct the problem. Until that happens, we can only watch games like this and wonder if the league even cares.