The NHL head office likes to talk about removing violence from the game to make it more appealing to fans.
Well, they might want to think about hiring a whole new crop of officials for next year. Maybe consider firing anyone involved in discipline or officiating from this season, starting with Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy.
So far the officials—both on ice and in the NHL head office—have let the Stanley Cup Finals devolve from a showcase of two skilled teams to a bad parody of Slapshot.
Now I like Slapshot as much as the next guy, but this is exactly the sort of "highlights" the NHL doesn't want to have on ESPN and other channels. Especially since we have all the cheap shots, but none of the fights.
It all started after Mike Murphy—the temporary head of discipline—blew the call on the Alex Burrows biting incident. I didn't think Burrows deserved a suspension but he escaped without even a fine or a warning.
Murphy issued a ridiculous statement that implied that he somehow hadn't managed to watch the video in question before making a ruling. I guess YouTube must be blocked by the IT guys at the NHL head office.
This infuriated the Bruins, with good cause, going into Game 2.
Game 2 was a bit rougher, and it was "highlighted" by Maxim Lapierre taunting Bergeron about the biting incident, and also Rich Peverly playing lumberjack by delivering a two-handed slash to the back of Kevin Bieksa's knee behind the play.
Both went unpenalized, and Peverly's slash, which clearly was intended to injure one the best Canucks' defenceman, wasn't even reviewed by the NHL.
So now we head into Game 3 and 4 with tempers high on both teams.
The NHL proceeded to botch the games, calling a total of 211 penalty minutes during the two games in Boston.
What makes it worse is when these penalties are called.
In Game 3, there were a total of 145 penalty minutes. There were three major penalties, one game misconduct penalty, nine 10-minute misconduct penalties, and 15 minor penalties. One-hundred and eighteen penalty minutes were called in the third period of Game 3. Eighty of those penalty minutes were called in the last 10 minutes of the third period.
In Game 4, there was a total of 66 penalty minutes. There were three 10-minute misconduct penalties and a whopping 18 minor penalties. Fifty-four penalty minutes were called in the third period of Game 4. Fifty-two of those minutes were called in the last 10 minutes of the third period.
The officials are letting everything go both during and after the whistles for the first 50 minutes of the game before suddenly pulling the whistles out and trying to make up for the lack of calls in the last 10 minutes.
What makes it worse is that the NHL specifically said they were going to crack down on the after-whistle infractions that were driving tempers up on both sides.
At one point near the end of the first period of Game 4, CBC showed a series of clips from earlier in the period, highlighting how Adam McQuaid was warned on three consecutive shifts about slashes and punches after the whistles.
One warning? Fine, even though the NHL warned both teams prior to the game, I can respect that.
Two warnings? Okay, the officials wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page before calling a penalty in the Stanley Cup Finals.
But three warnings? I'm pretty sure McQuaid had tuned out the officials at this point, since they obviously weren't going to call a penalty.
And McQuaid was hardly alone in this. After every whistle players were punching, slashing and cross checking. After each incident there was a stern talking to by the officials, but no call. At least not until the game was out of hand with players on both sides taking liberties on the opposing stars.
McQuaid? He was eventually called for a 10-minute misconduct penalty at the 17:33 mark of the third period. Or around 30 cross checks and punches to a Sedin after the whistles, depending on how you want to track it.
The NHL talked big before Game 4 about harshly cracking down on all the extra rough stuff and cheap shots that were detracting from the Stanley Cup Finals. Clearly that initiative worked about as well as southern expansion.
The biggest question going into Game 5 isn't if the Vancouver Canucks can recover, or if Tim Thomas can continue to single-handedly hold off the Canucks offense.
The biggest question is if the NHL can actually find a pair of officials who can properly call a game and keep it from getting out of control.