While bad calls like the one referee Paul Devorski made in the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday provide easy material for one-liners on Twitter, there’s no reason why mistakes like the one he made should stand uncontested.
Devorski waved off what would have, and should have, been the 2-2 goal by Ales Hemsky in the third period when he ruled that Sam Gagner, who’d been pushed into the crease, interfered with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. While there was no contact between Gagner and Varlamov, Devorski immediately waved off the goal without giving the Oiler forward a minor penalty.
At best, the ruling by Devorski was questionable. At worst, as duly noted by Oilers fans at great length in the wake of another loss, the call was nothing short of farcical and brutal, another example of incompetent officiating by referees employed by the NHL, the best hockey league on the planet. It’s a call that had several Oilers in hot pursuit of Devorski, and with good reason.
It was then and there somebody from the NHL office should have been on the phone to an official in the timekeeper’s box at the Pepsi Center insisting Devorski take a second look before play resumed or that Edmonton coach Tom Renney was able to issue a challenge – something more official than, "Devo, WTF are you talking about?"
Unfortunately, the rules and protocols employed by the NHL right now don’t allow for either action. That should change, and the sooner the better.
THE WAY I SEE IT
Making the right call should be the bottom line for the NHL, and with all the technology available and the number of eyes on any given play at league headquarters, there’s no reason not to get it right – or, at the very least, to insist an official like Devorski take a second look on discretionary calls.
Reviews happen now to determine if a puck completely crosses the goal line or is directed into the net with a high stick or by a "distinct kicking motion" with a skate. They don’t happen on discretionary calls made in a split second, like the one made by Devorski in Denver.
There is no good reason why the NHL shouldn’t put in a place a system where a supervisor, be it one in the rink or back in Toronto, can get on the phone and say, "Devo, we think you need to look at the play again." I can’t think of one, unless taking a minute or two to get it right isn’t worth it.
Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, I think most people will agree Devorski, like every other NHL referee, wants to make the right call and that officials do not want to influence the outcome of games with the wrong call.
GET IT RIGHT
The phone should have rang and Devorski should have been afforded a second look on a monitor at the timekeeper’s bench. Mick McGeough should have had the same opportunity when he made a phantom hand-pass call on Shawn Horcoff in a game several years ago. Instead, his only option was to apologize shame-faced after the fact for blowing it.
If allowing referees the ability to take a second look isn’t prompted by off-ice officials, then the other option is to allow coaches to challenge calls, as is done in the CFL and the NFL. One per game. Two per game. Maybe issue a penalty if a replay shows the referee got it right. Details.
I’m not as big on the coaching challenge option as I am on having off-ice officials call for a review when it’s deemed worthwhile, but it’s the end-game that’s the bottom line: make the right call at the right time. Fining referees behind closed doors or denying them cheques at playoff time, after-the-fact, discipline, doesn’t right the wrong in the here and now.
Get it right. Take a second look.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.