Let me set the context of this video and then let the camera tell the rest of the story.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a game 6-3 Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets. They were due to lose, and deserved to lose. They lost.
The defense didn’t show up. The team gave away countless two-on-one odd-man rushes, and even an occasional three-on-one. The Maple Leafs played the worst second period I can remember – ever. I don’t feel sorry for the team that they lost – except maybe for poor abandoned goalie Joseph Woll.
Maple Leafs’ Loss Is Only Half the Story
Given the Maple Leafs’ extended winning streaks, that they lost was a story. However, it wasn’t the biggest story of the night. The biggest loss for the team was that young Swedish defensemen Rasmus Sandin, who’s an up-and-comer on the team, might be lost to the Maple Leafs for about a month.
That didn’t have to happen. It happened because the officials displayed some of the worst game management ever from an officiating crew. Had they called a minor penalty to Pierre-Luck Dubois on the play in the video below or on the knee-to-knee hit on Sandin by Neal Pionk, the goon-ish behavior that followed.
The Video Shows the Goonish Behaviour In Action
I’ll comment on this video later, but just for now let the video speak for itself.
Eight Thoughts about the Video Displays
Thought One: The video shows it clearly. Auston Matthews was being dragged and rag dolled across the ice by Pierre-Luc Dubois. The referee stood a one foot away. He did nothing.
Thought Two: One of my favorite parts of the video happened when Matthews was getting tossed around and his stick came close to the referee. The referee continued to watch but did had the consideration to move Matthews’ stick with his hand so it wouldn’t come close to him.
Thought Three: The only reason I could see the goon-ing stopped was that another official raced in from stage right to stop it. As far as I could surmise, the closest official was happy enough to let the mugging continue.
Thought Four: Matthews is going to be vilified by his own Maple Leafs’ fans for not fighting back. But he’s been rag-dolled before like this and it turned into a man advantage. He must have believed, as the title suggested, that Dubois would be tossed from the game.
Thought Five: Where did the Matthews’ penalty come from? We don’t have the video prior to this event, but Matthews’ history suggests that he doesn’t play outside the rules. He was twice a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy because of gentlemanly play.
Thought Six: What deserves a penalty? How much should Dubois have been penalized for his _______ behavior (you fill in the blank with a modifier)? Had the referees called a four-minute double minor, that could have stopped the remainder of the over-the-line behavior by Jets’ players for the rest of the game.
Thought Seven: Rather than diffuse the behavior, poor game management by the officials acerbated the very behavior they should have wanted to stem. Pionk felt he would go unpenalized for a knee-on-knee hit on Sandin. He went unpenalized. [He was suspended today at a hearing for two games.]
Thought Eight: Had Dubois received the only penalty, or had Pionk been penalized for his knee-to-knee on Sandin, would Jason Spezza have lined Pionk up and then rushed into the play to smash him? That’s not in Spezza’s resume, either. Now Spezza will likely be suspended for five games – that’s the pattern.
I believe the Maple Leafs felt they had no respect from game officials or from Jets’ players. Even worse for the NHL, the stars are being beat on at an alarming rate. Wasn’t it just this weekend that Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid – the best player in the world – took matters into his own hands with a boarding hit that almost got him suspended?
Matthews, when he was letting Dubois shake him silly, had to be thinking – “this guy is soiling his own bed.” He’ll be off for at least one penalty and we might have a chance to chip into the lead.”
Surprise! It didn’t happen. Instead of a power-play opportunity, Matthews drew a penalty – probably for letting his stick come close to a referee.
Here’s what I saw in the video. Dubois jumped on Matthews’ back when Matthews was in a vulnerable spot. The referee did nothing to stop it, even though Matthews was in no position to defend himself – he was attacked from behind.
Two of the best players in the NHL are being left unprotected from other players. If this is the way it’s going to be, what will happen next? If I were the commissioner, I know what I would do.
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