Inconsistent NHL officiating forcing players' hands

The carnage in the third period of Winnipeg's win over Toronto once again laid bare the dangers of inconsistent officiating calls. On the latest episode of In the Mentions, Omar discusses the domino effect when players feel they no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

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Video Transcript

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OMAR: That Winnipeg Jets game might have been the worst game I've ever watched. No hyperbole. And you may think the same. All right, it has nothing to do with the fact that the Leafs lost. I know some people will say like, oh, Leafs fans are just being upset that they lost. No, it has nothing to do with the loss, but it has everything to do with how officiating lost complete control of the game. And it's a dangerous game when you don't know what the rules are.

And when you think about all the things that took place, when you think about Jason Spezza and his big hit on Neal Pionk, when you think of Rasmus Sandin, who is gonna be out for two to three weeks, when you think of all the things that took place, it all originates from the officiating. Pierre-Luc Dubois is doing whatever he wants Auston Matthews, and they both get offsetting minors for roughing? Even though literally the ref was watching it the entire time and didn't, you know, blow his whistle or raise up his hand up until Matthews grabbed onto his stick. That's when you're gonna call a penalty?

Michael Bunting literally swore openly. What are you doing? What are you seeing? Call something. So that happens with Matthews and Dubois. Nothing is settled there.

And then you have Neal Pionk, who again-- I know it's tough to say that he did it on purpose. It's really tough because the game is so fast. And at some angles, some fans have been saying that he did it on purpose, that he extended his leg. Others have been saying he positioned his body to kind of do this whole accidentally on purpose thing. Others are saying it's a complete accident. The game is so fast.

But it's tough to give Neal Pionk the benefit of the doubt. Because I remember last year when Mitch Marner was going for an empty netter against the Winnipeg Jets, and he took a run at him for no reason. So it's hard to reconcile that. So that happens. Rasmus Sandin gets hurt. Huge injury. And then there's no call. There's no call at all. Not a major. Not a minor. Nothing. Nothing happens.

So us, as Leafs fans, are gonna be outraged. And not even the fans are gonna be outraged, the players are gonna be outraged. Jason Spezza was openly screaming at the ref, saying where's the call? So then what do players have to do at that point? If the refs aren't gonna control the game, then we have to.

So the next shift, when Neal Pionk is in a vulnerable position, Jason Spezza takes a run at him. Now let me be clear, it is absolutely a suspendable hit. It's a dangerous hit, and there is 100% intent to injure there. We can't argue that. But that doesn't happen if Rasmus Sandin-- if there's a penalty there, if there's a call there, if anything. If the players don't feel like they have to do it themselves, then they don't.

So now you have Jason Spezza, who's gonna get an in-person hearing. You have Neal Pionk, who's only getting two games, and that in itself is a whole new conversation. Because two games? Ugh. Oh my gosh, it's so frustrating. And then it continues because Wayne Simmonds feels like he needs to take control of things. He crosschecks a pair of people, gets a fine for that.

You know, he's trying to fight Logan Stanley, who was literally annoying him the entire game. And every single time Wayne Simmons tried to fight him, the refs immediately grabbed him. Immediately. And then at the end of the game when they have this little fight, again it gets stopped after a couple of punches are thrown, and then Logan Stanley skates off putting his hands up in the air like he won something.

So now all of this is going on, all of this chaos. Players are being suspended, fined. Twitter is up in flames because you have Jets fans who are trying to defend some of the actions, and you have Leafs fans who are trying to defend Jason Spezza's reaction by saying that none of that happens if the officiating is decent, is normal, is doing what it's supposed to be doing.

And this goes into the fact that-- like Brad Meier. The fact that we know refs' individual names is an issue. That's a problem. The fact that we're focusing on the officiating and not the game itself is a problem. And now the big story is, well, the Leafs and the Jets, they play again on March 31st. What's gonna happen there? I don't even know.

A lot of people will say, well, you know, it's months away. It's whatever. That'll be fine. The players aren't gonna forget. They're not gonna forget Logan Stanley celebrating at the end of the game. They're definitely not gonna forget Mark Scheifele saying what he said, you know, isn't it great to beat the Leafs? They're not gonna forget that.

So then are we just gonna get into another situation where officiating isn't taking control of the game and instead the Leafs feel that they need to take control of it themselves? And then more people get hurt. What are we doing here? What are we doing here? And, again, the most frustrating thing is that this is all prevented if officiating does its job. And in that game, they didn't.

So I'm gonna ask you, what do you think it's going to take for officiating to be done right? What is it gonna take for us to move away from this game management view of officiating where we're only gonna call a penalty here and a penalty there? And if it's the final minute of the third period, we're not gonna to call anything. When are we gonna move away from that? What is it going to take?

Should officiating speak? Should officiating be asked questions? Should there be some way that we can hold officiating accountable? I think so. You know, we talk about this player should be suspended or that player should be suspended. We talk about retaliatory hits. Oh, the next time the Leafs and the Jets place each other, so-and-so is gonna get injured.

I think the officiating should be held accountable. I think they should be able to be asked why they didn't make a decision or what was their thought process in a particular move. Because them not answering these questions is getting people hurt. And once that's fixed, maybe then we can finally sit down and enjoy this stupid game that we watch on ice.

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