Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Blaming The Refs

Blaming the referees is a crutch. We all do it because referees are generally worthy of our abuse (at the professional level) and we need a reason to vent. They make bad calls all the time. They miss obvious ones all the time. Generally, though, things tend to even out in the end. Well…most the time they do.

Any referee will tell you they call the plays the way they see it. The whole concept of make-up calls is bogus and it’s just a coincidence if it appears that’s what the zebras are doing.

Any referee will tell you that because they are liars. They are filthy liars.

We all know what happens in the game of hockey especially. I’ll use totally fictional names of completely not real players to explain. They call a guy, let’s name him Drake Caggiula, for high sticking but 20 seconds later they see on the Jumbo-Tron that (again, totally made up name) Logan Couture snapped his head back because he’s been traumatized by the fact that his face is held together with used gum and bits of twine. He’s jumpier than bucking bronco. The referee knows he made a mistake and the next time a Sharks player reaches in with the stick it’s a hooking call. Everything goes back to even. The referee goes to bed knowing that whatever advantage he gave one team was balanced in the end.

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That scenario and those players, of course, are not real. You can tell that scenario isn’t real because the Oilers got the makeup call when the referee saw he made a poor call in the moments before. It isn’t a real scenario because the Oilers are getting thrashed by the officiating crews of the NHL. What’s happening with the power play opportunities in this series is bizarre.

Edmonton Oilers host NHL's first outdoor game 17 years ago today

In the seven other first round series in these playoffs, the power play opportunities between both teams is extremely close. So close, in fact, that you might believe that was “normal” and “The way it was intended to be.” This is what those look like.

The biggest difference in power play opportunities belongs to the +3 for the Flames, who were swept in their series. From there the next biggest differential is +2, but all teams are within striking distance of each other. Everything is as expected. Then there’s the Edmonton/San Jose series.

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Sharks 22
Oilers 12

The Sharks have had 6 more power play opportunities than the next closest team in the playoffs AND they own an eye-popping +10 differential on the man-advantage. San Jose has had as many power plays on the road as Edmonton has had in total. What on God’s green Earth is going on here? Sure, there have been some plays that absolutely deserved to be called (you really can’t try to castrate people, Leon), but have the Oilers been so evil as to warrant a -10 power play differential?

Blaming the refereeing is generally the most ridiculous thing a hockey team can do. That’s the case because typically the penalties will be close and Team X will get almost as many opportunities as Team Y. That is not happening or at least has not happened yet in this series. The Edmonton Oilers can rightfully look at this and be able to ask what is going on. There needs to be an explanation for the way the games have been officiated thus far.

Edmonton Oilers reassign defenceman William Lagesson

This really is atypical. This really isn’t standard operating procedure for the NHL. If the Oilers lose this series will it be because of the officiating? I hate to blame the referees because it’s such a crutch, but I think we can fairly say that the Oilers are not just playing against the Sharks. They’re also playing against the officials.

Why are seven other playoff series so damned close and one completely off the rails? I don’t know, but it’s a problem.

Watching at home tonight?

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  • Connor'sGotHart

    Don’t even go there ! That’s all I heard from Calgary fans ,media and players the last week. There may have been some suspect calls but that’s not what cost them losses in this series!

  • Traxy

    Hard to blame reffing for the 7-0 stomping, but the back-to-back brutal calls on Kassian and McDavid (and missed interference on Pavelski) to end the 1st and start the 2nd put the game out of reach.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Oilers are committing more infractions that the referees have bothered to call.

      There – I fixed your comment.

      If you believe the Sharks haven’t been committing the exact same penalties as the Oilers then I have a bridge to sell you. The difference is that everything including the chintzy stuff is being called on the Oil… against the Sharks? not so much.

      And when it is called, like the middle of the first on Tuesday, Suddenly the refs are getting deep intense commentary from the Sharks reminding the officials what jerseys they’re wearing under their stripes. I’ve never seen a bigger bunch of whiners in my life.

      • leftcardoor

        Youre right and I dont know how people can debate this, we are all watching the same game and have PVR. Clutch and grab sharks, no call. Clutch and grab oilers, minor called.

  • Action Jackson

    This isn’t completely fair as last game went completely off the rails. Even if you take away last game though there is a still a substantial difference. Good to know I am not the only one yelling at my TV.

  • Very interesting piece. I knew it was bad but not THAT bad.

    They’ve been timely for the Sharks as well. In particular I thought the call against McDavid to award a 5 on 3 was a bit weak. How often is that chalked up to two guys battling for the same ice? Referees aren’t supposed to influence the game, but I wouldn’t argue that awarding the 5 on 3 there did much more to influence the outcome than the potential effect of McDavid’s interference.

    • Bill up North

      Pavelski sold that too. Could’ve been an embellishment call. That play happens 20 times a game. Especially on a penalty kill. The more lopsided the calls are the worse it gets as players start to get frustrated and take stupid penalties or they’re scared to hit anyone because they get called every time they do hit someone. I think the frustration has been building and finally came to a boil when the game looked out of reach.

  • JudgeDredd

    It’s not just the penalties they are calling against the Oilers, while most were deserved there were a few that were suspect. the Kassian delay of game and there was one Poo took after getting hit from behind they called him on a weak cross check i believe.

    what’s bothering me the most is the refs will call Oilers on very suspect penalties but the sharks seem to be getting away with those.

    all the oilers can do if they know the refs are calling the series this way is not give them the chance to make a suspect call, they need to be even more disciplined and play sound, skilled hockey.

  • That's My Point

    Remember the 80’s and Denis Morel and Ron Hogarth, when either of them officiated the Oilers game you knew the Oilers were going to get twice as many penalties as the opposition. Who could blame them everyone hated Edmonton for being such a dominant team in the 80’s and now Edmonton wins four 1st overall picks in 6 years and everyone hates them again. Oilers have always had to beat the refs and the other team; that’s what makes the Oilers stronger, the adversity of fighting through.

  • Strottie

    Going back through the games on NHL.com, I have a few takeaways:

    1. Wow is that website dumb, whoever designed it should not have a job in web design.
    2.If we take away the very dumb, very blatant penalties in this series, specifically Draisaitl’s castration attempt, the two Maroon took in game 2, and give some slight leniency to a few *bad calls* (like one or two), the differential drops to 17-12 in favour of the Sharks, and its similar to the Ducks/Flames differential.
    3. Write off game 4 altogether; it was a tire fire of a game. The last 3 penalties we took really didn’t matter – it was already 5-0 at that point and one was for a sloppy change. Differential now looks effectively identical to the Leafs/Caps and Habs/Rags.

    The boys flat out aren’t playing disciplined hockey: I almost expected it between the lack of experience and nerves in the early games. Not only have the Sharks gone the distance before, they’ve had to get through/play teams like the Kings (multiple times) and Blues. The entire team knows what they can and cannot get away with, whereas Lucic may be the only guy on the team that fits that bill.

    I have to follow suit with Gregor and Brownlee on this one – blaming the refs isn’t the way to go. These guys try and call the best games they can throughout the regular season and postseason in hopes of calling the final round. No ref is setting out to sabotage themselves. The Oilers just need to shore up the discipline and they’ll be fine.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Bull. Your math is pretty fuzzy and any principle you apply to one set of games should be applied to the others you’re comparing to.

      I agree the Oilers have to find a way to battle through it. That’s what champion teams do. But let’s call a spade a spade and biased officiating what it is.

      • Strottie

        Where is it fuzzy? Having 6 guys on the ice at the same time? Draisaitl parking his stick up another man’s sack? What are 3 possibly questionable calls doing to the Oilers in a 5-0 game that they haven’t done to themselves?The point isn’t what the differential is/isn’t/should be/shouldn’t be. The takeaway is among the 22 calls the Sharks have gotten, there’s a healthy dose of ones that are penalties six ways to Sunday and a few that flat out don’t count for anything but ink on a scoresheet. The refs aren’t jobbing the Oilers.

        The McDavid interference, Kassian DoG, and Lucic slash are the only real cases for very bad blown calls. That’s 3 bad calls in 4 games, of which only two have been separated by a goal. As meaningful as Draisaitl’s fine. Pouliot’s retaliation is a penalty in any game. If you want to argue the Oilers should have gone to the PP after the hit he took, consider Kassian charging Couture in game 2. The missed calls have and do go both ways.

        • Not a First Tier Fan

          There were a few bad calls before Tuesdays game. But that’s not what fuzzy… you’re arbitrarily taking away from the Oil penalty count based on a standard that you’re not applying to the subset of games you’re comparing to.

          Example – Hamiltons cross-check in the Flames third period (game 2?) was pretty blatant and deserved to be called. By your standard that should be removed from the count. As should a few Ducks penalties I can think of. But you’re leaving the total from that series intact even though you hack and slash from the Oilers series. Your method is flawed and designed to give only the outcome you want it to.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Not to mention that any standard applied to the Oilers has to be applied to the Sharks. I think you’d find their number dropping and the differential widening again.

            Bad statistical analysis. Boo.

          • Strottie

            It’s not at all arbitrary:

            1. Matt is convinced the Oilers are getting jobbed because of the discrepancy of calls for and against in relation to other series.

            2. In order to set up any argument for or against the Oilers being jobbed in the playoffs, the other series without major differentials should be deemed ‘fair’ or ‘normal’. Then you can assume that the refs calling bad calls in those series is either not happening or equal for the sake of the argument. You could go through this the same way I went through the Oilers/Sharks series so far, or save yourself a few hours and make the observation that the reffing has been at least close and fits either of those two conditions.

            3. By taking away what **is** a penalty from the Oilers/Sharks differential, you can then determine how badly the Oilers are being jobbed in this series.

            4. That leads to there being 3 or 4 soft, bad calls against the Oilers through 4 games this series.

        • pkam

          Where is it fuzzy?

          The Calgary-Anaheim series is 13-11. The differential is 2, not 5 in your argument.

          If the last 3 penalties we took in game 4 didn’t matter, then the last 3 penalties Sharks took in game 4 didn’t matter neither. Then the penalties will be 17-9, the differential should still be 8 instead of 5.

          • Strottie

            The graphic that Matt had on this article – now in Gregor’s – had the differential at 16-13 in favour of Calgary. Gregor’s tweet has 13-11. Which is right? I can see why my math would look bad if I’m using the wrong source.

            I said they don’t matter because they couldn’t physically put us in a bigger hole even if the Sharks converted on all of them. There’s effectively no difference in losing a game 5-0 or 8-0. If the Oilers PP clicked on those 3 calls, then they very much do matter. Could’ve been their way back into the game or at least their way of making some of it entertaining.

          • pkam

            Even using Gregor’s number of 16-13, the differential is 3 not 5.

            I will argue that either they both count or they both don’t count? Your argument is if we click then we can come back and make it 5-3. But you ignore that fact that if both click, then the result will be 8-3. And those 3 penalties took 6 minutes away 6 minutes of EV ice time.

      • CDNinATL

        Agreed. You can’t take away the​ weak calls since they get called. Secondly you have to look at all non calls the Sharks. Like the hooks on McDavid and the interference calls that happened after the faceoffs.

        • Strottie

          Completely different beast altogether, McDavid not getting the obstruction calls in favour has been happening all season. You’re right that they should be called, but those types of calls haven’t been made consistently League-wide since 2006.

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            I don’t buy your logic. Hendersen has treated all playoff series the same in his comparison. Whereas you are statistically altering one half of one series and treating it like the same comparison.

            You’re jobbing the analysis as badly as you’re claiming the refs are not jobbing the Oil.

            Until you apply the same standard to both sides of the equation, and to the various subsets you’re comparing to, you have nothing but flawed assumptions. Don’t blame me for pointing it out – that’s statistics.

    • The Dave

      Strong point… if we ignore 6 of the penalties the Oilers/Sharks have basically the same penalty differential as Calgary/Anaheim, because 5 is pretty much 3.

      I’ll give you that both Oilers losses happened because of poor play, not the refs, and that some of the Oiler penalties have been flagrant, but some of it has been garbage. Kassian getting a delay of game penalty for defending a guy charging the net (who then hammered the net off its supports) was a complete joke – and that’s where the complaints about the reffing are coming from. It’s been a weird mix of super relaxed and super tight (the McDavid penalty for a 5 on 3 was pretty soft), and it is tilting against the Oilers by a large margin. There’s a bit of embellishment coming from San Jose too, which makes it all the uglier. Joe Pavelski is lucky to not have whiplash after Game 4.

  • corky

    How about scoring some goals? This article is a crutch. What do you think is happening: Bettman calls war room, who then call refs to put the order in to go against the Oilers. This is rich! If San Jose wins this series will we forever be subject to ‘the Oilers got jobbed’ in ’17 playoffs? Be the better team! Plain as that.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Already covered in Gregors article yesterday and also in Brownlees comments today.

      Nothing wrong with an article pointing out the officiating bias. Wish the ‘professional’ media had the balls to point this out.

    • That is what appears to be happening. Zebras might as well wear Sharks jerseys. Every chincy call is made against us and the entire Sharks team has suddenly all turned turned into Lady Bing finalists. Getting hose bagged two to one as per usual. Right after Pavelski had his little chit chat with the ref, we all knew the 2 to 1 ratio BS would start up again, and it did, to the surprise of no one.

    • corky

      Exactly. A good team points the finger inward when they lose, not try to play the blame game. I’m sure coaches aren’t pouting about this, rather they are preaching discipline and working through this.

  • Natejax97

    Just my opinion, but when the Sharks have the puck and are winning the races to all the loose pucks and they cycle and cycle and cycle and then regain possession again off the rebounds, one of 2 things happen, they either score or they draw a penalty. This is true right down to Novice hockey. The way to get out of this ditch is to move your feet. If your feet are moving you don’t take hooking calls, and you are ready to turn the puck up ice and maybe start drawing some penalties. The Oilers were over aggressive Gm 1 and 2, Game 3 was a saw off, and in an effort to play more disciplined, they backed off hitting in game 4. When they did this, the sharks speed increased, then comes the interference, hooking etc. Then frustration and then Leon goes too far. Just skate hard, hit clean hard, and get some offensive zone time and penalties will even out.

  • Neumann

    It is also strange that McDavid has yet to draw a penalty. The league leader in this category during the season. Just an observation, maybe the subtle clutching and grabbing is slowing down the fastest and most exciting player in the game.

  • Connor Mcdavid 1

    I don’t want anyone to blame refs on this site, switch over to flamers nation and join them, bottom line is we are getting outplayed, Talbot stole us a couple wins, we simply need to be better and everyone from top to bottom on the team knows that, still trying to figure out how Mcdavid can find some open ice on these guys.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Don’t think anyone is blaming the refs. If anyone thinks I am then I’m not communicating what I want to say clearly enough…

      There’s a difference between pointing out that something exists and blaming it for a loss. Oilers deserved to lose game 4 – they played like crap. Their play is why they lost. However in all of that the referees were sure having a one-sided game themselves…

  • Dobbler

    If we accept the premise that the Sharks are disproportionately benefiting from bad calls or non-calls (for the sake of argument, not sure if I agree or not), there is actually a fairly non-sinister explanation. The Sharks are an experienced and old team, the Oilers are a young and inexperienced team. One of the few thing that you really can only learn with NHL experience, is how much you can get away with to the refs, and how to sell a penalty against. The Sharks are outplaying the Oilers in that discipline. They are playing the refs better than the Oilers are. Between that and some uneven luck (which always tends to balance out eventually), there’s no need to use conspiracy theories to explain the penalty discrepancies.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Those numbers are weird, I’d like to go back and watch every penalty. McDavid’s penalty to make it a 5 on 3 was a joke, often what refs call just seem random. However, if Zack Kassian’s name was Raffi Torres in game 2, and if Couture or whoever layed on the ice after the hit, Zack would have been suspended 25 games, so I guess the Oilers caught a break there. Either way, hopefully it evens out tonight. It was a blowout, but the Oilers have the advantage still with 2 home games.

  • Gravis82

    San Jose knows that they have respect from the officials cause they are the more experienced team. Thus, they are selling more calls than usual because they know they will get the benefit of the doubt. This is a deliberate strategic play by San Jose management.

  • ed from edmonton

    The discrepancy in PPs is weird, but I think 2 aspects are contributing. No.1 veteran players always get the benefit of the doubt. Refs or others may argue this isn’t so, but it happens in very sport. No. 2 the Oil have not adapted well to the officiating, and this is due to inexperience and playoff inexperience specifically.

  • toprightcorner

    There has been a couple weak calls during the series, but the Oilers have been very undisciplined, especially with their sticks. They have had at least 5 high sticking penalties.

    The only really weak call was the delay of game to Zack Kassian when he hung with Braun driving the net and the net came off its moorings. That play happens hundreds of times a season and I have never seen it called when the defending player and driving player are together.

    Bottom line is they need to go a game with only 1 or 2 penalties so they can get into a 5 on 5 groove. That is the only way they will start putting the puck into the net.

    • Anton CP

      I agree, the Oilers are not doing themselves any favorite by being very undisciplined. One of the penalty was too many men on ice with PP, that is just unacceptable. Way too many high sticks and the Sharks veteran also were good at baiting the young Oilers taking a few roughing penalties. Some bogus calls to be sure but the Oilers also need to take most of the blame for not being careful.

  • Explicit

    I’ve always looked at reffing different I guess. Matt seems to be saying good reffing would even out the PP’s, but I’ve always hated when refs try to even out the calls. Just call the penalties and who cares wether the pp chances are even or not. Don’t take penalties.

    With that said I’ve hated the reffing for years. The game in general is called terrible and it ruins the game

  • ChrisG

    Agree with your take on this. Most of the Oiler penalties are, in fact penalties. I think Russell’s hook and a couple of others might have been weak, but still you could defend the calls. The problem is always the missed calls and the timing of missed/made calls. In early game 5, Benning had his man contained behind the red line to Talbots right. A different Shark player came in and basically body-checked Benning – sent him flying – and there was no call. I was floored that this was let go. There have Ben numerous instances where SJ has been given a pass. Here in Calgary the morning show was talking about the “high stick goal” by Thompson and we’re talking about the refs…. sure that one was pretty sketchy, they said but c’mon the Flames went 5 periods without a penalty…. including Bennett’s charging from behind…. they concluded that there’s no way the Flames played 5 periods of penalty free hockey. Same with SJ….. they been getting frequent breaks on non-calls. It hasn’t been close.