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Canucks GM Mike Gillis complains about penalty calls; Does he have a point?

Apr 25, 2011, 11:12 PM EDT

Roberto Luongo AP

Whether it’s deflecting attention from Roberto Luongo or “planting a seed” for officials in Game 7, Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis called for an “even playing field” when it comes to penalties today.

While he’s not the first GM to pipe up about the issue in the 2011 playoffs – Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray wins that trophy – it might not be a bad strategy. From a sheer numbers perspective, he has a point, too. The Chicago Blackhawks received 27 power play opportunities (scoring six times) while the Canucks only went on the man advantage 16 times (scoring four goals) in the first six games. That’s 11 more chances or almost two more per game.

After a pretty even amount of power plays in the first two games (four for Vancouver, five for Chicago), the difference was especially clear in the first two games in Chicago. The Blackhawks received 14 chances in those two games while the Canucks only went on the PP six times.

We’re not trying to tread into conspiracy theory here, but Gillis is clever to bring up the difference, especially since officiating could make a huge difference in Game 7. If you don’t think it matters, chew on this: the Canucks scored 79 PP goals this season, the highest total in the NHL. Here’s what Gillis said, via NHL.com.

“These are facts. They’re undeniable,” Gillis said. “The first two games everything is relatively equal, the last four games they haven’t been. And when people seem to think we don’t have the killer instinct, it’s pretty tough to have the killer instinct when you’re killing penalties most of the time.

“Our power play was No. 1 in the League and theoretically we felt there were six or seven legitimate calls that weren’t called for whatever reason. That’s six or seven power-play opportunities for us. It’s going to change the outcome of the game.”

(snip)

“I’m very confident that if we play the same way (Tuesday) night and it’s a level playing field we’ll win the game.”

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was wise to leave the controversial comments to his GM, though.

“I’m not going to touch on that. Our players and myself, we need to be focused on the process, putting a good game on the ice,” Vigneault said. “I understand Mike’s frustration. When Raffi Torres hit Seabrook, there was almost a national debate on whether he should play another game this year and we even had media from our media suggest that if the League doesn’t suspend him we should suspend him. Well, the hit on Kevin (Sunday) night was the exact same hit and they didn’t even get a minor and nobody brought it up so I understand his frustration. But, as far as us coaches and players, there’s nothing we can do about that and we just have to go out and play.”

With all the talk of Vancouver’s killer instinct, the referees need to follow their own instincts by calling a fair Game 7. That’s not to say that they didn’t so in the previous six games, but Gillis is smart to shine the spotlight on the referees in this penultimate game, too.

  1. polegojim - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    Mr. Gillis – how about winning instead of whining.

    The moment a GM starts pulling the ‘unfair penalty’card, that’s code for: “We’re getting pitifully embarrassed and I’ve got to cry out loud and get some sympathy.”

    Chicago has only scored 6 pp goals the entire series. The Canucks are getting beat up after believing they could cruise to a series victory. They lost their testicles and daddy thinks he’s coming to the rescue.

    If I’m a Canuck veteran, I’d be embarrassed and upset at this weak and desperate move.

  2. stakex - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:33 AM

    You know, if it was just one series or one game Id say it might just be a fluke.

    However, anyone with half a brain who watched a lot of hockey games knows this isn’t an issue limited to this series. The refs in the NHL have been terrible the last few years, and not just terrible… but actually playing with the outcome of games.

    Im not saying there is some grand campaign by the league to help any one team win but there is definatlly a problem with how the refs handle individual games. If a game is 3-1 going into the third… we all know whos going to get the power plays in the third period. Its pretty amazing that the teams with the lead seem to alwasy be so careless and take penelties, yet the teams fighting to come back normally take so few penelties. Kinda funny isn’t it? I know the argument could be made that one team is pressing and forcing the other team to take penelties… but how does that explain so many blown/missed calls against the team thats losing?

    Here is how it should be: If something is a call when your winning, it should be a call when your losing. Refs should not be making calls based on the score of the game as they CLEARLY do… ALL THE TIME. If the refs want to put the wistle away during the 3rd period (they should in the playoffs) then fine, put them away.. but don’t put them away for only the team thats losing.

    The obvious question is “What does the league gain from this?”… and thats a very easy question to answer. First of all, no one wants to see a game turn into a blowout (unless your team is winning). A game thats 4-1 isn’t very exciting down the stretch… but if you throw in a couple penelties, and perhaps a power play goal you suddnely have a game that has some life back in it. Considering that league wants to make the sport more exciting, I think it stands to reason this would be a good strategy for that end. The same can be said about a playoff series, especially one like the Chicago/Vanccover series, which many considered to be the most exciting series to watch. When it was a 3-0 blowout no one really cared…. but now? Now there is the chance Chicago can do the impossible and come back and defeat the clear favorite in stunning fasion. How does that NOT make for amazing entertainment? If you don’t think Bettman would encourage the refs a little bit to get that outcome your kidding yourself. Thats not even getting into the financial gain from pushing a playoff series a few extrea games. Think about the ad/ticket/consession sales. Lots of happy people there.

    Of course in this case credit goes to Chicago for their comeback. Yes the penelties have clearly gone their way the last 3 games… but you still have to win the games. Still though, attention really does need to be paid to the bigger issue of NHL refs playing a part in who wins and who loses games. The NHL needs to make sure there is solid consistency in its calls, and make sure that circumstances of the game/series have no weight on penelty calls. Every single game is important, and refs can really hurt teams in efforts to make things intresting…. which should NEVER happen.

    • polegojim - Apr 26, 2011 at 8:34 AM

      I see your point, but with those observations, you’re proving that officiating is consistently inconsistent for everyone.

      Isn’t that called ‘FAIR’?

      How is it that my Red Wings were one of the LEAST penalized teams in the league during the regular season, but during the Phoenix series, they’re in the box a LOT more frequently? Who knows? Did they suddenly forget how to play the game? No.

      But I do know this: The Red Wings still won because they played better and through the penalties, not because of demanding REF relief. The Canucks won’t if they hang their hat on feeling sorry for themselves as Gillis is showing.

      Those who want the win will go get it despite Referee decisions.

      You’re 100% right with this statement:
      “Of course in this case credit goes to Chicago for their comeback. Yes the penelties have clearly gone their way the last 3 games… but you still have to win the games.”

      • stakex - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        Well the Red Wings were clearly the better team, and a hundred power plays would not have saved Phoenix. But what if the series was closer? If you give a team enough chances on the power play… they are going to take advantage of it eventually.

        I honestly don’t think I would use the word “fair” to describe the refs in the NHL. If the word inconsistent can be used to describe the officiating, then there is a problem that should be fixed. When its inconsistent, or bias in favor of the losing team… theres no way to make it “fair”. If its a call for one team, it should be a call for the other team. Otherwise, there will be times when a team wins games that they shouldn’t have… and thats not something you would expect from a professional sport.

        Like I said I totally agree that a team still has to go out and win the game… but that task should never be made easier by the refs in an effort to make the game more intresting, which clearly happens a lot in the NHL.

  3. tommytd - Apr 26, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    These guys are world class crybabies. I’ve never seen a team cry, moan and whine like these Canuckleheads! They deserve to be bounced out and I sure hope the Blackhawks are the team to do it!

    • orb1943 - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      Once the Blackhawks bounce the Canucks, I hope that ownership bounce the head coach and send their overpaid goalie down the road. Some idiot signed Luongo to a long, high-priced contract, which will be difficult to unload. A contract buy-out might be cheaper.

  4. orb1943 - Apr 26, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    This is such rubbish. Why should powerplay opporunities be balanced? If one team plays dirty or makes silly discipline errors then they should be penalised. Blown calls are something else. Luongo’s record only looks good bevause the Canucks were in a weak division.

  5. comeonnowguys - Apr 26, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    1) Seabrook didn’t have the puck. Bieksa did. 2) Torres had just gotten suspended with the league, which is why that suspension talk immediately came up. 3) Seabrook didn’t have the puck. Bieksa did.

    Also, this is part of the reason Vancouver has lost to the Blackhawks the previous two years. They get flustered and they take stupid penalties against Chicago. Why penalize Chicago because Vancouver loses their discipline?

    Are there missed calls? You bet. Does it even out for the most part? Yes. (I know, I know, 27 to 16, but when you start losing your head, the PP numbers will not sway your way.)

    This still isn’t remotely as bad the NBA; clearly the Grizzlies have been out of the area too long if the fervor is this high.

  6. cshearing - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    While I agree that Gillis is a little mislead on his points, Vigneault has a good one about the difference in reactions to the Torres hit on Seabrook & the hit on Bieksa. The hits were nearly identical, but the reactions were not.

    • korytyler21 - Apr 26, 2011 at 5:37 PM

      There is good reason for the reactions to not be the same. Torres did the first hit, and he didn’t get a suspension or anything. This would mean that there is no reason to even look into the next hit. If the hits are “identical” as everyone says, then the course of action would be the same as well, meaning that there would be no suspension, so no reason to look into it.

  7. derpdederpdederp - Apr 26, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    he definitely has a point, but unfortunately the timing of his comments give the impression that he is just whining. anyone whos been watching the playoffs knows that the refs have been brutal in just about every series

  8. winframe - Apr 26, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Mr. Gillis should be fined heavily for making statements questioning the integrity of the league.
    No other major sport allows anyone associated with a team to do this and the NHL needs to start now by slapping him with a $250,000 fine.

    • stakex - Apr 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      What integrity? I was un-aware the league actually had any…..

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 26, 2011 at 10:29 PM

      theres no rule against pointing out facts. the officiating in the playoffs has been horrendous and has likely determined the outcome of several games. in my mind theres nothing wrong with drawing attention to that

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