Welcome back Press Boxers!
I'm as glad as anyone that The Press Box is back with an interactive approach to the best place to 'just talk sports' because as many of you may know, I'm a internet junkie.
Speaking of junk, did anyone watch the Canucks vs. Ducks game tonight? A message to the know-it-alls at the NHL head offices: if you want to see an embodiment of all that is wrong with the game today (or at least some of it) then take a look at some footage from tonight's game down at the Pond (or Honda Center, whatever).
In the first period Canucks' forward Tommi Santala was pushed awkwardly from behind into the boards in his own zone, although he was not severely injured on the play and returned to the game shifts later, the outcome of such a hit could have been grave.
Problem 1: There was no penalty on the play. A hit from behind, no matter who the victim or the severity of the hit, should be penalized.
Problem 2: After a non-call on the hit, Canucks' tough guy (sometimes to the shagrin of the coaching staff) Kevin Bieksa took punishment into his own hands by challenging the Ducks' forward Dustin Penner (the hitman, so to speak) to a fight. Penner graciously accepted and the two did a little dance. After all this, along with his fighting major Bieksa was handed an instigator penalty along with a misconduct. On the ensuing power play, Anaheim took the lead. If the refs aren't calling penalties to protect the players and the rules don't allow for the players to protect themselves through good old fashioned fistacuffs, then why is the NHL surprised by all of the Chris Simon-like incidents arising?
Problem 3: Shortly after this skirmish, Canucks' grinders Matt Cooke and Jeff Cowan took a clean yet provoking run at Ducks' young d-man Kent Huskins. Shawn Thornton took exception to this hit (and Cowan's extra nudge after the hit) and jumped Cowan much like Bieksa did Penner (more instigating-like in fact). One would think that Thornton would then be assessed an instigator and misconduct to along with his five minutes of fighting, right? Nope.
The game went on like this throughout the night with inconsistent officiating and not much flow being allowed by the men in stripes. Far be it that I blame the Canucks' loss on the officials, but they did not make it any easier for Vancouver to stick up for themselves without being put in a vulnerable position and they did not call it consistently when the Ducks did so.
As far as the NHL has come in the 'new era' it is apparent through tonight's game that there is still a long way to go in making the game what it should be and then marketing it as the best and coolest game on earth. So I shall wait, patiently, albeit squirming in my seat every time an instigator penalty is called.