Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
You hear it every year. What is the NHL going to do to stop all this diving and embellishing?
There have been various proposed crackdowns in a number of different sports. In soccer, referees are now allowed to present yellow cards to particularly egregious actors, and getting enough of those can indeed lead to suspension.
In the NFL, if you pretend to be injured, you can get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and cost your team a timeout.
In the NHL, of course, there are two-minute minors for diving and for even acting as though an actual penalty was worse than it was, such as shaking your hand like someone just tried to remove it, when all you received is an inadvertent tap on the glove.
But the League wants to go beyond than that.
As you likely well know by now, the NHL is kicking around the idea of circulating a list of known divers around the league so that officials can better spot the actions of these cowardly no-goodniks. Guys like Ryan Kesler and maybe even Evgeni Malkin could very well appear on this list, and therefore their unacceptable actions will no longer be tolerated, unless they are.
The problem with this list is that it doesn't accomplish much. Okay, sure, it gives homer broadcasters something to harp about whenever an offending player comes to town; imagine Jack Edwards' glee at seeing someone like Tomas Plekanec appear on that list. But what else could it possibly achieve?
If anything, it will just lead to those guys drawing fewer penalties they might have deserved or, at worst, lead those players to maybe earn an extra two penalty minutes a couple times a season.
The reason I bring this up is that the NBA is apparently kicking around the idea of penalizing floppers — same act, different name — by conducting reviews of every game, and potentially fining those it believes intentionally hit the deck to draw a couple free throws. Here's why that, and all other attempts to crack down on this kind of behavior are always going to fall short: Because players don't care.
(Coming Up: Rick Nash injury update; Kings for sale; lockout hurting arenas; Daryl Katz "I'm a Dumbass" Tour; will the Staals head overseas?; Kansas City bummed about losing exhibition game; Blue Jackets already with the Nathan MacKinnon talk; Jimmy Howard misses Chris Osgood; Canucks go to midgets; Toby Enstrom's waiting game; Nazem Kadri is fat; and trading Bouwmeester to the Avalanche.)
The NHL rules actually have fines and even suspensions built into them when diving by one player becomes problematic. As with the NBA's half-baked idea, it involves postgame reviews at league offices.
First offense: The NBA sends a warning letter. Ooooooo, scary! Nothing like a terse letter from head offices to stop doing a thing to really put the fear of God into you.
Second offense: A $1,000 fine. Whoaaa not $1,000, that's 1/500th of league minimum.
Third offense: A one-game suspension. Which actually isn't that bad of a deterrent, in theory anyway.
Fourth offense and beyond: Penalties are doubled from the previous infractions.
It might shock you to learn, however, that this kind of thing is never enforced, at least not publicly.
Now, you might say that it's rare for a team or a single player to get whistled for diving, and that much is true. In the last two seasons, Max Lapierre and Alex Semin, respectively, each led the league with just three of them. Neither Semin nor Lapierre were suspended by the league for hitting that threshold, despite what it says in the NHL Rulebook.
The only player who has even had his diving fine publicly announced in the last several years, as far as I can tell, is Sean Avery (of course it's Sean Avery).
That was in 2005.
The thing with that diving list — or the NBA's proposed fine system, or the NHL's existing one — is that we know who the divers are on the ice. We see them 20, 30, 40 games or more a season, and as a consequence we know what this kind of thing looks like. The NHL very obviously chooses not to enforce what it has written down despite the fact that this is happening with at least some frequency.
Fines, again, don't work. These guys make lots and lots of money and even if the NHL maxed out the fine amount to the largest allowable under the past CBA, that's $2,500 and no one cares. At least in the NBA, they have a history of fines that are of sizable amounts ($100,000 to Kobe Bryant being like $2,500 to the average NHLer, sure).
If you want accountability from professional athletes on this matter, you need two things, neither of which will ever actually happen.
First, you need officials who aren't afraid to call diving whenever they see it. If there's four dives in a game, call every single one of them and make sure the teams get the message that on this ref's watch, diving won't be tolerated.
Second, increase the punishment heavily and make the review process more transparent. Here's what every player does when they get that letter from the league: crumple it up and throw it in the garbage. You or I would do the same thing because really who cares. So, fines for the first offense, suspensions for the second, at a minimum. You want to circulate that divers list? Make all diving and embellishment penalties for guys on it count double on the ice and in terms of supplementary discipline. Four minutes in the box, $2,000 out of your wallet, two-game suspension, etc.
Otherwise, the NHL just looks like the punk teacher who gets driven out of the inner city school at the beginning of all those movies Dangerous Minds-type movies.
The problem is the NHLPA likely won't go for that, and the list is already going to be extremely subjective since it's based on perhaps the most subjective penalty around in the first place. Plus, players will always find a way around it because they're very good at what they do.
And so in the end, the only thing you can really say about diving is that there's nothing you can ever do except pay it lip service — "Boy is it bad!" — and hope no one notices when you don't do anything about it.
Hey, it's worked for the NHL so far.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Ducks goaltending prospect John Gibson is off to an okay start for Kitchener of the OHL. He stopped 42 of 43 on Saturday night and now in three games this season has a GAA of 0.97 and save percentage of .969.
Boston Bruins: Jordan Caron is likely to be a full-time NHL player when or if the season eventually starts. Peter Chiarelli said he saw a significant development in Caron's game just over the summer.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have a number of good young prospects, all of whom will likely improve as a result of the quality of players now flooding the AHL.
Calgary Flames: Here's Flames defensive prospect Patrick Sieloff drilling Justin Bailey from late last week.