It's 2003 (or thereabouts). The Leafs are in overtime with the San Jose Sharks, and have an offensive zone faceoff with less than one minute left. Given that a loss is as good as a tie (there's no shootout), and given that the Sharks play in the Western Conference, the obvious decision is to pull the goalie and try to get that extra point, right?
Quinn doesn't. I'm left asking (screaming) the question in the title.
Fast forward to 2009. Ron Wilson is not an idiot, and when he sees a chance to get his team a powerplay because Jason Spezza is using an illegal stick, he takes it. This prompts the TV announcers to make statements like "When was the last time you saw a stick measurement?" and "You could nab Ovechkin every game".
Which takes me once again back to the question in the title. Powerplay goals are the key to success in the NHL. Why the hell doesn't Ovechkin get busted every game? I came up with four answers in alternative to the premise that NHL coaches are idiots:
1) There's a disincentive: a delay of game penalty if you're wrong.
2) There's a tactical element: like Wilson last night and Demers in '93, the coaches are waiting until just the right moment to spring their trap.
3) Their own players use illegal sticks, and part of the coach's job is to make sure they're comfortable and able to use the equipment they prefer.
4) It's against the 'code' (I stole this one from Wyshynski after following PPP's Acountability link).
Unfortunately, none of these hold up:
1) When was the last time you saw someone call for a stick measurement? Ask yourself when was the last time someone was wrong? I've never seen it outside of a minor hockey gamble. Players and coaches know. Wilson says he knew about Spezza's stick all season.
2) Do you know when the best tactical time to give Spezza an illegal stick penalty is? The first time Ottawa takes a penalty while he's on the ice. 5-on-3s are much more dangerous than 5-on-4s. A goal in the first period counts just as much as a goal in the third. Failing that, take away the first Ottawa powerplay. In either case, Spezza gets to play the rest of the game without his game stick.
It used to be that players smarter than your average Cayuga resident (I'm looking at you, McSorley) would use the clever trick of changing sticks near the end of close games to avoid exactly this tactic. Now you've missed your chance, Wilson. Waiting is risky.
3) Suppose I'm coaching Carolina against Washington in the playoffs, and suppose Eric Staal uses illegal sticks. By punishing Ovechkin, I might be hurting Staal! Gee, tough choice; it's like the two minute penalty is a bonus.
4) The 'code' is funny, but this is just ridiculous. We're talking about a league where sprained wrists are called "upper body injuries" so that players don't start taking deliberate hacks, but it's dishonourable to take advantage of catching an opponent cheating?
Most likely a modern-day Fred Shero will eventually start calling out star players like Ovechkin every game until the rest of the league catches on. Until then, can any of you think of a better reason than these four? Or are NHL coaches idiots?
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