Rough week for refs

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

This just in: To err is human.

Further update: NHL officials are human.

Everyone clear?

There has been considerable grousing this past fortnight about not only the state of officiating in the NHL, but also the degree to which video replay should be used to correct mistakes that happen on the ice.

The first case was the goal San Jose scored against the Detroit Red Wings, when the puck actually hit the netting above the glass and bounced in front of the goal and ultimately was tapped in by the Sharks. The officials missed seeing the puck hit the mesh and thus didn't whistle down the play as required.

It was a mistake.

The next case was a goal scored by Buffalo forward Derek Roy against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Sabres had one too many men on the ice at the time. The goal proved to be the eventual winner, though it was scored early in the third period and the Sabres scored twice more before the game was over. No matter, the goal counted, the officials missed the extra man on the ice and a penalty, not a goal, should have happened.

It was a mistake.

In both cases, Philadelphia and Detroit took it hard on the chin. In both cases, video review could have corrected the problem, but the point is, how far do we go with video review?

As it is, every goal that is scored is reviewed, but not for those reasons. Video review is used to make sure the puck crossed the line, that it happened before the net was dislodged or time expired, to ensure the puck wasn't kicked or swatted in, or deflected directly in off an official or was deflected by a high stick. There is also one fairly vague criterion that it is used "to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are "good hockey goals")."

You could make video review apply to offside goals, pucks hitting the netting, goals scored with too many men on the ice -- the list is endless. But at what point do we take the human element out of the game and turn everything over to the video police for further review? Hopefully never.

Never mind the time involved reviewing every goal for every potential flaw or mistake on the ice, think of the impact on the game. There are enough stoppages and interruptions to the flow of the game. Do we need more?

In the end, the game itself is played by players who make mistakes. It is officiated by referees and linesmen who make mistakes. The system in place is a pretty darn good one, in terms of ensuring that almost all goals are good.

Face it, mistakes are a part of the game. You try to keep them to a minimum, but you can never stop them. And you can erase them only by changing the game, by eliminating the human element and that would be wrong.

PRICE IS RIGHT

There has been a lot of head scratching in Montreal over the Canadiens' decision to trade Cristobal Huet and finish the season with two rookie goaltenders, Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak. There is no denying it is a somewhat risky move, but it is not without precedent, especially in Montreal.

Price has proven at all levels he can deal with the pressure and, notwithstanding a couple of stumbles this season, has been terrific. Now, not to say the end result will be the same, but there is a resemblance to what is happening with the Habs this year to what transpired in 1986 when they rode to the Stanley Cup with a rookie goaltender named Patrick Roy, who had been a late callup to the AHL the previous year and won the Calder Cup. Sound familiar?

That season, Roy played 47 games, had some serious struggles, but caught fire in the playoffs, when he played all 20 games and ultimately won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

LIGHTNING STRIKES

The question was put to Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster, after missing on so many attempts to find a bona fide No. 1 goaltender, why should anyone believe that Mike Smith is the answer? According to Feaster, the Lightning has had an interest in Smith for two years and the scouting was exhaustive.

"Every one of our pro scouts has had multiple viewings of him," Feaster said. "If there is anything different, it's the number of eyes we had on him."

Feaster said a rival general manager said he believed Smith would turn out to be good.

"If he doesn't," Feaster said, "I won't be picking the next one."

THIS AND THAT

Not sure what to make of the contract talks, or lack thereof, between the New York Rangers and forward Sean Avery, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. First, you might recall, there was the nasty salary arbitration hearing last summer. Now, Avery has asked for a salary in the neighbourhood of $3.5 million, up from $1.9 million, for three or four years and has heard nothing back of late from the Rangers. Not sure if they just don't want to commit, think the money is too rich, don't understand how important he has been to that team the past two years, or are using this in a perverse way to keep him angry and motivated, which generally makes him a better player. In the end, however, it could ultimately cost the Rangers his services.


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