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Do the referees have something against Rick Nash(notes)? Do they have beef with the Columbus Blue Jackets?

That's the premise of Michael Arace's column for the Columbus Dispatch today: That Nash, despite being considered one of the NHL's top talents, gets slashed and hooked and slew-footed with no whistle. Arace believes he's treated like a "third-line grinder":

There has long been a perception, not illogical, that NHL officiating is substandard. Hockey is fleet and violent at the highest level. It is difficult to call in the best of conditions and there is a dearth of quality referees, especially since the league went to the two-ref system in 1998-99. The situation is such that the retirements of Don Koharski in 2009 and Kerry Fraser and Dan Marouelli at the end of last season will be felt for another generation.

There is that. And there is this: NHL referees are supposed to be objective and they are, in the way that Fox News is fair and balanced.

He brings up the Stephane Auger incident with Alex Burrows; his refusal to add the Stephen Walkom/Colin Campbell email tittle-tattle to the conspiratorial stew is either a moment of admirable restraint or a complete oversight.

But scuttlebutt aside: Does Nash fail to get the calls?

The remarkable hockey stats site Behind The Net keeps a running tally of the players who draw and/or take the most penalties for every 60 minutes of even-strength hockey.

Here's Nash, with his points over the last two seasons and his penalties drawn and taken during the stretch:

Player

Games/Points

Penalties Drawn per 60 min. (ES)

Penalties Taken per 60 min. (ES)

Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets

2010-11: 25/20

2009-10: 76/67

2010-11: 0.5

2009-10: 1.4

2010-11: 0.9

2009-10: 0.7

So Arace and disgruntled Jackets fans might have a point: That's quite a tumble, albeit with plenty of time to have things average out.

Which got us thinking: What about the other stars in the NHL? Which ones get the calls, which ones see the whistle put away when they're fouled?

We begin with Sidney Crosby(notes).

Earlier this week, we ran a Stunning Numbers post that dealt with some of the penalties drawn/taken leaders in the NHL. Here's a look at the top 10 scorers in the NHL this season, and how their Drawn/Taken averages compare with last season and with those of their peers:

Player

Games/Points

Penalties Drawn per 60 min. (ES)

Penalties Taken per 60 min. (ES)

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2010-11: 30/50

2009-10: 81/109

2010-11: 1.9

2009-10: 1.3

2010-11: 0.8

2009-10: 1.0

Steven Stamkos(notes), Tampa Bay Lightning

2010-11: 28/40

2009-10: 82/95

2010-11: 2.0

2009-10: 1.0

2010-11: 1.5

2009-10: 0.9

Alex Ovechkin(notes), Washington Capitals

2010-11: 29/35

2009-10: 72/109

2010-11: 1.3

2009-10: 1.2

2010-11: 1.1

2009-10: 0.9

Marty St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

2010-11: 28/34

2009-10: 82/94

2010-11: 1.9

2009-10: 1.3

2010-11: 0.3

2009-10: 0.2

Alex Semin, Washington Capitals

2010-11: 29/33

2009-10: 73/84

2010-11: 0.6

2009-10: 1.4

2010-11: 1.9

2009-10: 1.4

Brad Richards(notes), Dallas Stars

2010-11: 27/33

2009-10: 80/91

2010-11: 0.6

2009-10: 0.3

2010-11: 0.5

2009-10: 0.4

Nicklas Backstrom(notes), Washington Capitals

2010-11: 29/32

2009-10: 82/101

2010-11: 0.9

2009-10: 0.9

2010-11: 0.4

2009-10: 0.7

Daniel Sedin(notes), Vancouver Canucks

2010-11: 26/32

2009-10: 63/85

2010-11: 0.5

2009-10: 0.2

2010-11: 0.7

2009-10: 0.7

Pavel Datsyuk(notes), Detroit Red Wings

2010-11: 26/31

2009-10: 80/70

2010-11: 0.8

2009-10: 1.5

2010-11: 0.2

2009-10: 0.1

Henrik Sedin(notes), Vancouver Canucks

2010-11: 26/31

2009-10: 82/112

2010-11: 0.3

2009-10: 1.1

2010-11: 0.5

2009-10: 0.9

A few thoughts:

• The jump for Stamkos on penalties drawn is interesting, given that last year was his "coming out party" as a star player. Is this indicative of teams giving him more attention defensively or the refs giving him more star-treatment?

•  Conversely, Alex Semin's numbers would indicate he's gotten less of a benefit from the officials this season, a career-best offensive pace, than last.

• According to Behind The Net, there are 167 players that average 1 penalty taken per 60 minutes (minimum 20 games) this season. There are two in the top 10 scorers, both from the Washington Capitals. (Tin-foil hat time!)

• Oh, and can you tell Pavel Datsyuk is a perennial Lady Byng finalist?

Here's a glance at some of the other star players in the League and their numbers.

Player

Games/Points

Penalties Drawn per 60 min. (ES)

Penalties Taken per 60 min. (ES)

Joe Thornton(notes), San Jose Sharks

2010-11: 25/26

2009-10: 79/89

2010-11: 1.3

2009-10: 1.4

2010-11: 0.2

2009-10: 1.0

Patrick Kane(notes), Chicago Blackhawks

2010-11: 28/27

2009-10: 82/88

2010-11: 1.1

2009-10: 1.4

2010-11: 0.5

2009-10: 0.3

Marian Gaborik(notes), New York Rangers

2010-11: 16/15

2009-10: 76/86

2010-11: 0.8

2009-10: 0.7

2010-11: 1.0

2009-10: 0.7

Eric Staal(notes), Carolina Hurricanes

2010-11: 26/28

2009-10: 70/70

2010-11: 1.0

2009-10: 0.9

2010-11: 0.7

2009-10: 1.1

Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Anaheim Ducks

2010-11: 31/28

2009-10: 66/69

2010-11: 0.4

2009-10: 0.6

2010-11: 0.6

2009-10: 1.3

Joe Thornton's either been on his best behavior or apathetic this season. We'll leave it to Sharks fans to decide.

Is there star treatment in the NHL? Of course there is ... which makes it, what, a professional sports league with human officials calling fouls and penalties? Because it's not something unique to the NHL (we're assuming you've seen at least one NBA game in your lifetime).

That said: The hypothesis by the Columbus Dispatch isn't completely accurate. Witness last year's list of the top players drawing penalties, with a minimum of 60 games played:

Not exactly an all-star team there; in fact, there are a couple of players you'd assume referees would outright loathe.

Which tells us that in hockey, aggression (and embellishment) can be just as valuable as scoring titles and commercial endorsement deals.

Which is to say that Sidney Crosby gets the calls because he goes to the net, battles in the slot and plays harder than 99 percent of the League -- and not simply because he's Sidney Crosby.

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