By Ryan Lambert
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
You hear it every year. What is the NHL going to do to stop all this diving and embellishing?
There have been various proposed crackdowns in a number of different sports. In soccer, referees are now allowed to present yellow cards to particularly egregious actors, and getting enough of those can indeed lead to suspension.
In the NFL, if you pretend to be injured, you can get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and cost your team a timeout.
In the NHL, of course, there are two-minute minors for diving and for even acting as though an actual penalty was worse than it was, such as shaking your hand like someone just tried to remove it, when all you received is an inadvertent tap on the glove.
But the League wants to go beyond than that.
As you likely well know by now, the NHL is kicking around the idea of circulating a list of known divers around the league so that officials can better spot the actions of these cowardly no-goodniks. Guys like Ryan Kesler and maybe even Evgeni Malkin could very well appear on this list, and therefore their unacceptable actions will no longer be tolerated, unless they are.
The problem with this list is that it doesn't accomplish much. Okay, sure, it gives homer broadcasters something to harp about whenever an offending player comes to town; imagine Jack Edwards' glee at seeing someone like Tomas Plekanec appear on that list. But what else could it possibly achieve?
If anything, it will just lead to those guys drawing fewer penalties they might have deserved or, at worst, lead those players to maybe earn an extra two penalty minutes a couple times a season.
The reason I bring this up is that the NBA is apparently kicking around the idea of penalizing floppers — same act, different name — by conducting reviews of every game, and potentially fining those it believes intentionally hit the deck to draw a couple free throws. Here's why that, and all other attempts to crack down on this kind of behavior are always going to fall short: Because players don't care.
(Coming Up:Rick Nash injury update; Kings for sale; lockout hurting arenas; Daryl Katz "I'm a Dumbass" Tour; will the Staals head overseas?; Kansas City bummed about losing exhibition game; Blue Jackets already with the Nathan MacKinnon talk; Jimmy Howard misses Chris Osgood; Canucks go to midgets; Toby Enstrom's waiting game; Nazem Kadri is fat; and trading Bouwmeester to the Avalanche.)
The NHL rules actually have fines and even suspensions built into them when diving by one player becomes problematic. As with the NBA's half-baked idea, it involves postgame reviews at league offices.
First offense: The NBA sends a warning letter. Ooooooo, scary! Nothing like a terse letter from head offices to stop doing a thing to really put the fear of God into you.
Second offense: A $1,000 fine. Whoaaa not $1,000, that's 1/500th of league minimum.
Third offense: A one-game suspension. Which actually isn't that bad of a deterrent, in theory anyway.
Fourth offense and beyond: Penalties are doubled from the previous infractions.
It might shock you to learn, however, that this kind of thing is never enforced, at least not publicly.
Now, you might say that it's rare for a team or a single player to get whistled for diving, and that much is true. In the last two seasons, Max Lapierre and Alex Semin, respectively, each led the league with just three of them. Neither Semin nor Lapierre were suspended by the league for hitting that threshold, despite what it says in the NHL Rulebook.
The only player who has even had his diving fine publicly announced in the last several years, as far as I can tell, is Sean Avery (of course it's Sean Avery).
That was in 2005.
The thing with that diving list — or the NBA's proposed fine system, or the NHL's existing one — is that we know who the divers are on the ice. We see them 20, 30, 40 games or more a season, and as a consequence we know what this kind of thing looks like. The NHL very obviously chooses not to enforce what it has written down despite the fact that this is happening with at least some frequency.
Fines, again, don't work. These guys make lots and lots of money and even if the NHL maxed out the fine amount to the largest allowable under the past CBA, that's $2,500 and no one cares. At least in the NBA, they have a history of fines that are of sizable amounts ($100,000 to Kobe Bryant being like $2,500 to the average NHLer, sure).
If you want accountability from professional athletes on this matter, you need two things, neither of which will ever actually happen.
First, you need officials who aren't afraid to call diving whenever they see it. If there's four dives in a game, call every single one of them and make sure the teams get the message that on this ref's watch, diving won't be tolerated.
Second, increase the punishment heavily and make the review process more transparent. Here's what every player does when they get that letter from the league: crumple it up and throw it in the garbage. You or I would do the same thing because really who cares. So, fines for the first offense, suspensions for the second, at a minimum. You want to circulate that divers list? Make all diving and embellishment penalties for guys on it count double on the ice and in terms of supplementary discipline. Four minutes in the box, $2,000 out of your wallet, two-game suspension, etc.
Otherwise, the NHL just looks like the punk teacher who gets driven out of the inner city school at the beginning of all those movies Dangerous Minds-type movies.
The problem is the NHLPA likely won't go for that, and the list is already going to be extremely subjective since it's based on perhaps the most subjective penalty around in the first place. Plus, players will always find a way around it because they're very good at what they do.
And so in the end, the only thing you can really say about diving is that there's nothing you can ever do except pay it lip service — "Boy is it bad!" — and hope no one notices when you don't do anything about it.
Hey, it's worked for the NHL so far.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Ducks goaltending prospect John Gibson is off to an okay start for Kitchener of the OHL. He stopped 42 of 43 on Saturday night and now in three games this season has a GAA of 0.97 and save percentage of .969.
Boston Bruins: Jordan Caron is likely to be a full-time NHL player when or if the season eventually starts. Peter Chiarelli said he saw a significant development in Caron's game just over the summer.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have a number of good young prospects, all of whom will likely improve as a result of the quality of players now flooding the AHL.
Calgary Flames: Here's Flames defensive prospect Patrick Sieloff drilling Justin Bailey from late last week.
Gotta keep your head up.
Carolina Hurricanes: In which Eric Staal gets deep about the prospect of playing overseas: "Everyone is their own individual." Seems both he and his brother Jordan will be staying in North America.
Chicago Blackhawks: Blackhawks farm team the Rockford IceHogs are putting coupons for free tickets to preseason games in their local newspaper, so why not go to a free hockey game if you're near there? Great marketing here.
Colorado Avalanche: Kansas City is all bummed that the cancelation of the NHL preseason will deny them an Avs/Rangers game. Hey guys, don't worry about it. Just wait a few years and you'll get either the Coyotes or Oilers.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Probably not too early to start with this stuff, eh?
Dallas Stars: Say this for Rauman Lukko of the SM-Liiga: They love their Danes. In the last few days alone, they've signed Danish NHLers Philip Larsen of Dallas, Mikkel Boedker of Phoenix and the great Frans Nielsen of the Islanders. Frans Nielsen will be the SM-Liiga MVP this year book it.
Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Because of the lockout, Jimmy Howard can't get advice from goaltending coach and mentor Chris Osgood, which in this article is being framed as a negative for some reason. As far as Osgood is concerned, though, you know what they say: Those who can't do, teach.
Edmonton Oilers: Next stop on the Daryl Katz "I'm a Dumbass" Tour is a public talk with the City Council. That'll go well.
Florida Panthers: "Panthers not on ice but staff is out in the community." You know, rooting around in garbage cans, panhandling, collecting cans, that sort of thing. Oh that's not what they're talking about? Never mind then.
Los Angeles Kings: The guy who wants to buy AEG — which owns the Kings, LA Galaxy and part of the Lakers — is a former surgeon and pharma mogul who wants to use the company's considerable heft in an effort to raise kids' awareness of the importance of health and physical fitness. Seems like a good guy to me.
Minnesota Wild: The Houston Aeros are holding camp at the Xcel Energy Center because why not. They'll also host Rockford in an AHL game there in November.
Montreal Canadiens: As with the Aeros and most other AHL teams, the Hamilton Bulldogs are also holding their training camp right now. That team could have as many as six rookies on it, and Aaron Palushaj is already talking like he's a greybeard at 23 years old.
Nashville Predators: The locked out Preds players hired a coach to help them refine their skills while they can't work with their actual coaches. That's initiative right there.
New Jersey Devils: Not one but two of Travis Zajac's brothers, Darcy and Kelly, are participating in the Albany Devils training camp. Also in camp, oddly, are three former UNH Wildcats.
New York Islanders: Nino Niederreiter hopes this latest trip to the AHL is enough to catapult him to a full-time NHL job. Don't forget, though, that he only had one goal in his final 55 games last season after dealing with a concussion.
New York Rangers: Rick Nash shoulder injury update: He's day-to-day with a bruised bone, but didn't break anything. Good news, bad news.
Ottawa Senators: Jared Cowen doesn't much seem to like playing in the AHL again. "I'm not saying it's bad here," is never a good way to start a sentence about a place you're playing.
Philadelphia Flyers: Given Claude Giroux's recent concussions maybe going to play in the KHL would be a frigging terrible idea.
Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 52 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. Oh and Glendale is working with Greg Jamison to rework its original deal to pay him to run the arena because he's totally buying the team, guys.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Do the Pittsburgh Penguins have roster flaws? Let's just have a quick glance at the goals they gave up in the playoffs last year and see what the problem there was. I'll give you a hint: It starts with Marc-Andre Fleur-.
San Jose Sharks: The area around HP Pavilion will lose out on a lot of business, and that will obviously hurt profits, say owners there. Meanwhile, the Sharks' owners are probably happy they don't have to lose another $15 million this season.
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Sobotka is lighting up the Czech league, with eight points in his first five games. He only had 20 all of last season.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Bolts center and Alaska native Nate Thompson signed with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, joining other Alaskans Joey Crabb and Scott Gomez on the team. Meanwhile, Matt Carle, Ty Conklin and Brandon Dubinsky continue to turn their back on their home state.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Marlies already love what Paul Ranger is doing in his return to professional hockey.
Vancouver Canucks: Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis recently went to a AAA midget hockey practice to work with and talk to the kids. Bieksa admitted to being gassed afterwards. Getting run around by 15- and 16-year olds when you're already supposed to have been in camp? Good work, Kev.
Washington Capitals: Brooks Laich had a goal and an assist in his first game with Kloten of the Swiss A League. Fun fact, one of his teammates is Matthias Bieber. No relation.
Winnipeg Jets: Toby Enstrom wants to sign for Modo but can't yet because the club is still a little dubious about whether that ruling that Swedish teams could sign NHLers will hold up.
Gold Star Award
Tom Fitzgerald's son Ryan looks to be a top-quality prospect, taking home the MVP award at the first ever USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo ahead of guys like oh I don't know Seth Jones. Three assists and dominated at the dot in a 5-2 win.
Minus of the Weekend
Nazem Kadri seems to have spent the summer on the Dustin Byfuglien diet.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "Flames rebuilder" just wants to help.
Good job out there.
Oh, spoons. Can I assume the potatoes will be mashed tonight?