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Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Who the hell is Warren Foegele?

I didn’t have the first clue who Warren Foegele was before I looked him up last night and likely neither did you — unless you happen to be related to the 22-year-old forward from Markham or are a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Most of us were introduced to Foegele when 630 CHED analyst Bob Stauffer Tweeted out his name in the wake of the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. It was a game, in the opinion of many, in which Connor McDavid had to fight through more than the usual amount of hooking, holding and interference and wasn’t very successful at it, prompting much consternation.

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Having looked it up, Stauffer is absolutely right. Foegele certainly has had the keen eyes of NHL officials upon him. While Foegele has played just under 14 minutes a night over 32 games for Carolina this season, he’s drawn 17 penalties – tied for fourth in the league – one more than Edmonton’s two-time and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner.

That fact, on top of what a functioning set of eyeballs have told anybody paying attention, is much to the chagrin of Oilers’ fans. As it should be. We’ve seen this movie before.

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WHAT THEY SAY

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) defends Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Asked about it post-game, Oilers’ coach Ken Hitchcock, now 14 games into getting a first-hand look at McDavid, said: “I’m not going to comment on the penalties, but the stuff that really bothers me is what is happening to Connor, and that really bothers me because we’re a league that is supposed to showcase our top players, and you don’t want to give them all the freedom, but the tug of war on him was absolutely ridiculous today.

“And that’s a little bit discouraging to be honest with you. Because I can see the whackin’ and hackin’ going on when he’s got the puck but to me it’s all the stuff behind that doesn’t allow him to showcase his speed. And if that’s what we want, well, that’s fine. But I think it’s a real disservice to a player like him.

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“He’s not allowed to play give-and-go. It’s give-and-hold. So we’re going to have to figure out a way to fight through it. We’ll just play toughness with him and figure it out from there.”

Hitchcock tip-toed pretty well along the line that separates fair comment from getting fined by the NHL’s head office, but his frustration was obvious. Likewise, so is that of fans who are of the mind that McDavid isn’t being given a fair chance to showcase his considerable skills by a league that’s selling entertainment. So, is this just sour grapes after a loss? Does the perception of Oilers’ fans and observers in general have anything to do with reality?

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BY THE NUMBERS

My eyes tell me that McDavid, like too many of the NHL’s most talented players, has to fight through far too much riding and roping on a game-by-game basis. It doesn’t make sense to me that a player who spends as much time on the ice as McDavid does, has the puck as much as he does and produces as many points as he does has drawn one less penalty than a guy like Foegele.

In what’s far from an all-encompassing breakdown, I took a look at the top-10 scorers in the NHL this season, their time on ice (TOI) in all situations and where it ranks in that top-10, plus how many penalties they’ve drawn (PD) and where that ranks overall through Sunday’s games. Here’s what that looks like.

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PLAYER GP G A PTS TOI/Rank PD/Rank
M. Rantanen 33 15 41 56 691:01/5th 9/83rd
N. MacKinnon 33 19 30 49 725:36/3rd 20/2nd
C. McDavid 33 19 30 49 746:55/2nd 16/T-5th
N. Kucherov 34 14 34 48 629:16/9th 10/T-57th
M. Scheifele 33 21 25 46 749:19/1st 14/15th
J. Gaudreau 34 15 30 45 687:45/6th 17/4th
J. Eichel 34 14 31 45 685:43/7th 13/22nd
B. Wheeler 33 5 39 44 709:18/4th 8/115th
A. Ovechkin 32 29 14 43 676:28/8th 6/202nd
B. Point 34 21 22 43 610:15/10th 10/T-57th

Here are the most penalties drawn overall:

Aleksander Barkov – 23
Nate MacKinnon – 20
David Pastrnak – 18
Pierre-Luc Dubois – 18
Johnny Gaudreau – 17
Warren Foegele – 17
Connor McDavid – 16
Brad Marchand – 16
Mathew Barzal – 16
Nikolej Ehlers – 16
Nico Hischier – 16

THE BOTTOM LINE

In a league that’s supposedly selling entertainment to the people who buy tickets, where goals create excitement, it’s stunning to me that so many players in the top-10 of scoring rank as low as they do in penalties drawn, especially when you look at Ovechkin, Wheeler and Rantanen. They’re producing despite the calls they aren’t getting. So is McDavid, who plays the second most minutes of anybody in the top-10.

I’m not of the mind there’s some kind of conspiracy by any of the officials to screw over the Oilers and McDavid, but I am of the opinion the NHL isn’t doing nearly enough to free-up the players at the top of the marquee, who sell the tickets, and McDavid sits at the top of that list. The stuff he puts up with away from the puck, when he’s trying to give and go or break free, is ridiculous.

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I still don’t know who Warren Foegele is, outside of what the numbers tell me, but I damn sure know he doesn’t belong with the company he’s keeping in terms of penalties drawn. I don’t want to see games slowed to a crawl and turned into special teams events by parades to the penalty box. That said, I don’t want the players who lift fans out of their seats, like McDavid, ridden like rented mules either, as is too often the case right now.

There’s got to be a reasonable middle ground, no?

Previously by Robin Brownlee


    • slats-west

      The Vancouver Canucks are the 5th most penalized Team in NHL currently. In the prior 13 Games they were short handed 42 times. Against the best player in world they were short handed once. ONCE! Statistically a blip? When McDavid plays 20mins a night but they all of a sudden tightened up and played straight up hockey. Something they have only been able to two other times this year. Guess who against? Crosby ( Pitt) ! And Foresberg (NAS).

      There is something here Robin – the best players deserve better! We pay the money we want to see goals, great skating, shooting, and… not some hack like Stecher holding onto McDavid or Sid all night! It’s complete crap.

  • Serious Gord

    I know who Foegele is.

    He’s the exception that proves the rule.

    Does mcd get hacked? Obviously.

    Does he not draw as many penalties as he probably should. Sure.

    Are his stats out of line? Not significantly so.

    Could there be explanations for this? Yes. Defenders may be giving him more space and don’t physically engage him as much because of his speed. And also because of his speed he’s by them before they can hack him.

    Stauffer looks silly bringing up the exception to the rule.

    Unless he is implying that the officials are against mcd.

    And since robin you don’t think it’s a conspiracy why do you bring it up?

    • Jon123

      He made it pretty clear. He thinks all of the top end players (not just McDavid) should be getting more penalties against them called to make sure that fans get to watch skill and not holding. He never mentioned anything about a conspiracy, and even mentioned multiple other stars besides McDavid. You made that conspiracy bit up in your head.

      • Serious Gord

        Reread it: he brings it up and says he doesn’t think it is. So why echo what stauffer says? It’s irrelevant unless you think it is a conspiracy.

        • puckle-head

          No. You are wrong. This is pretty basic English here; a conspiracy is a secret plot carried out with ill intent towards a group (or an individual). Robin isn’t arguing that at all. He’s saying that the league is failing to enforce the rules in a way that benefit the better players. Failing at something is not conspiracy. Again, basic stuff here, Serious Gord.

  • IUsedToBleedOilBlueButIBledOut

    the clutch and grab era is back. Just nobody wants to admit it in the NHL. I can’t stand to watch the game anymore there is no pleasure in it. Instead I just turn it on and have it playing in the background while I do other things. If there is a goal, I will pause and rewind if need be to see it. But to watch all the clutching and grabbing and non-calls and then the BS calls AGAINST McDavid and others? Not worth my energy. I used to never miss a game or a goal scored. With the product now being allowed to be showcased on the ice, I could care less if I miss seeing goals and entire games.

    • chezzychez

      I wouldn’t say Mcdavid isn’t ‘allowed to be showcased’ on the ice… He’s held back because of the officiating for sure, but he still puts up a highlight every shift he’s out there. He’s worth watching the whole game, every game IMO.

  • corky

    Eventually it will get to a point where Connor gets hurt like Gaudreau a couple years ago. Then the league will wise up because if Connor gets hurt, the whole league suffers.

  • El Cid

    BOO WHOO WHOO! The Oiler’s have the players to deter this so why is everyone crying about bad reffing? Send out the chain gang and end it as soon as it happens. I think that is what Hitch refered to in the presser.

  • Hemmercules

    McD should be closer to the top but he’s still in the top 10. The league has been like this forever. Even if they start calling that stuff more it will slowly drift back to the way it always is. I think sometimes Connor is just battling so hard through that stuff they just let it go because half the time it doesn’t even slow him down much. He’s not about to start diving or doing the old Jonny Hockey wrist shake every time someone touches him.

  • Clayton

    Finally someone that gets that it isn’t just Connor that is being held back. It is the star players across the league. It was only a couple weeks ago I saw Nate MacKinnon skating down the ice with an opposing play holding his jersey so tight it was pulling away from his body, no call. Or Johnny being clearly hooked down and almost tackled to the ice on a breakaway only to jump up calling for a penalty shot and realizing no only was there no penalty shot there was no call! It is a league wide problem.

  • camdog

    I’m pretty sure the last 2 games were from the ref Connor showed up last year with the look up at the replay. It’s not a coincidence that Hitch waited until they got this same ref to speak up. The bridge was burnt a long time ago. So it’s not like the coach burnt a bridge with a different ref. There’s a reason why they don’t put the names on the refs anymore. I don’t know his name, but I know he don’t like the Oilers.

    All around though clutching and grabbing is back in the game, everywhere. Too many goals equals players getting too much salary and messes with the salary cap.

  • Gary Chalmers

    The thing is the refs are just not calling blatant, obvious penalty calls. The game against LA, in Los Angeles, Dustin Brown or Toffoli, put his hand on McDavids shoulder, from behind, and hauled him down in the offensive end, to the right of the net, when the Oilers were trying to tie it and no call, should have been interference or holding. As fast as McDavid is, he should be up at the level of the speedy Nathan McKinnon in terms of penalties drawn. He gets held, interfered with, hooked, tripped, and can’t get calls, at least he doesn’t whine to refs like Gaudreau does.

  • Bluetomorrow

    They need to start calling more holding the stick or holding on offensive players, the amount of times every game where defensive player pokes stick in for a second then stick gets grabbed or chicken winged by the offensive player is absurd, at min league should equate this action similar to diving and start fining players for such plays. Basically saying the Refs are being confused by these plays and don’t know when to call a penalty half the time

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Losing teams complain about officiating. Winners don’t.
    Connor McDavid and Leon Driasaitl never complain. Maybe the fans should follow their lead?

  • DoubleDIon

    Honestly, you guys crying about a league wide conspiracy to undermine Oiler hopes is hilarious. Two of the last 3 years you’ve had the easiest schedule in the league. You’ve had 4 1st overall picks. How many more advantages would you like? The team to the south of you has never had a top 3 pick in their history and has never had even a top 10 easiest schedule. Yet the boys from Calgary keep rolling without whining like a bunch of entitled millennials.

        • Sorry, DD. You slid right past the item about the Flames complaining about Gaudreau after you said they don’t do that kind of thing without addressing it and skipped right to Vancouver. Not so fast.

          From the link the poster provided: “When you have a good player, there are tactics. Whether you put more men on them, you try to be physical, you try to take away space, all the things that we know and talk about,” said Treliving. “But when you chop a guy in the hand, there’s a rule that says you can’t do that.”

          Teams can and do point out what they see as lapses in applying the rules and they should when they feel they have a case. That applies even to Calgary. Now, you’re caught up.

    • Ted

      With out whining … You were fined for WHINING you putz! Ask the coach cuz Bennett had his head down got crushed left the ice … The Whining got your coach fined! Gaudreau hand waves are becoming the Crosby head bob that’s whining! And if TURTLE BOY is close enough to the bench expect a cheap shot and run! The Whole City Of Calgary are bread on the WHINER mentality! So live with yourself double DD … Hmmmm DION the biggest WHINER!

  • Old school

    I like the article and yes there is no doubt the league has found a way to stifle McDavid but the emphasis really should be on the Oilers to better adapt their attacking style instead of waiting for the league to legislate star treatment. They need to manage the star player and his attacking style . We all love to see Connor hit the blue kind in full speed .. the problem is he is often alone and has created a one versus three scenario where they strip him of the puck. He is trying to do too much on his own. Understandable but not effective against good coaches . He needs to involve his teammates more . He has become relatively easy to defence because he’s beating himself . Hitch must know this .. don’t wait for the league to sort out our challenges .. make the teams adapt to what we dictate .. He needs to adapt change of pace in his game like all the great ones had to do.. Orr , Hull , Howe and Gretzky all used a few different gears going up the ice not just Top gear all the time . It would be great to find players who could hit top gear with him to play with but they are all in the hall of fame already

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Has Hitch even watched a NHL game this year other than the ones he’s been on the bench for? This happens league wide. In fact, the NHL actually sent out memos to the refs to stop calling so many penalties from good defensive plays or big hits. So, his ability to draw a penalty shot from a drive to the net is less likely. It’s not just him. At least he hasn’t had his fingers broken from repeated hacks. Or suffered a blind sided “legal” hit.

    You criticize the refs openly, and guess what….you get the Burrows effect. Or the Wideman effect. Nothing too obvious. Just more of what you have complained about.

  • toprightcorner

    IT is like the refs are afraid to give 1 team 10 PP’s a game, so they don’t make the calls. If they called penalties based on the rulebook and gave the Oilers 10 PP’s a game, within 5 games, players would not take any more liberties.

  • toprightcorner

    Coaches are telling their players to interfere with McDavid and other top scorers as much as possible. Knowing they may get called for 1 penalty out of every 5-7 infraction, it is worth it statistically to do that. If the Oilers score once in every 5 PP chances, that means they can interfere with McDavid 25-30 times for every goal they give up on the PP, but by interfereing, they probably prevent 3 goals from being scored.

    As long as the refs don’t call the rulebook, it statistically favours the opposition to interfere with the elite players as much as possible. It will continue to get worse and worse until the refs do their job. The refs are ruining the entertainment in hockey.

  • Johnny Zylon

    Of course the referees are guided by the league HQ. Same as the NFL. You think the billionaire owners are going to let the employees decide what happens? Probably about 99.5% of the time the refs call the game as close to fair and square as they can. Nobody cares when Panthers play Hurricanes so no need for manipulation. Plus if a team really sucks no amount of cheating is going make a diff. But at the upper levels with the big market playoff bound teams in certain games for sure there is influence. When the opportunity presents itself the refs know when to start or when to stop calling penalties. Maybe they change the course or outcome of a game and maybe they don’t but they do change the probability. Tell me i have my aluminum hat on too tight if you want but there is too much evidence and too many blatant errors during the season that can only be explained by a blind eye or a wink and a nod. It’s billions of dollars in play, who lets random acts if employees manage that?