Friday, May 03, 2013

The Eric Gryba Debate. A Replay Could Have Saved The Day

screen caption courtesy of @BonksMullet
If you were watching game 1 of the Ottawa/Montreal series, the biggest talking point of the game was the debate about the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller that left him on the ice with an insane amount of blood spilling from his face. It was a graphic image, not for the faint of heart that's for sure and the immediate reaction was wow, Gryba killed him. At full speed it looked like it could have been a pretty dirty hit, definitely one worthy of suspension and a 5 minute major penalty, but was it? The more angles and replays you watch, it becomes more and more questionable that it was even a penalty, let alone a viciously dirty hit or suspension worthy. And that's just the problem.

At full speed it's hard to tell. It's a bang bang play and when you hear the crowds reaction, coupled with a player on the ice not moving and leaking blood like the Titanic did water, you can understand how the referees would make a call on emotion rather than fact. And in a beer league that's fine, but this is the NHL, where millions of dollars are at stake and there's too much on the line. They need to get it right. The result could have affected the games outcome and the entire series. So why isn't the NHL concerned with making the right call?

Now I understand that we don't want to go to instant replay for every single penalty that is called. That would be ridiculous and take too much time, as well as make referees basically useless, but in the case when a player is being ejected, shouldn't we take a moment a make sure to get the call right? That' what we're told matters. That's the reason we review goals, to make sure the outcome is the correct one. In this case we lost Gryba for the game, which forced the Senators to play a Dman down for half the game, as well as having to kill off a 5 minute powerplay that could have easily decided game 1.

It should be an automatic in my opinion, especially in the playoffs. The NBA does it. When there's a flagrant 1 or 2 foul, the refs confer at mid court on a monitor and have the option to change their minds, because you know, it makes logical sense to make sure you were right before dismissing someone from the game. If they worried about the refs at the game having too much pressure on them, make the decision happen in Toronto where they review goals independently. All the NHL should care about is getting a big decision correct.

And in this case, if they had of reviewed it, they would have seen that it was basically a clean hit. There was no cheapshot as many Habs fans want to believe. He didn't leave his feet, the puck was there and it was a shoulder to shoulder hit that unfortunately, Eller ended up being hurt on. Diaz, who made the pass to Eller, made a poor, split second decision, but he isn't to blame either. The thing is, sometimes things just happen and we as humans need to assign blame. The fact is it was a clean hit with an awful, bloody result, but that's all it was. In fact, if Eller had of had his head up and knew the hit was coming, he could have braced himself a bit and then he wouldn't have fell lifeless to the ice and cracked his face, which was what made the hit look a lot worse than it was.

Now that's not assigning blame to Eller either, he isn't to blame and neither is Diaz or Gryba for that matter. It was a hockey play and someone got hurt, but that's the chance these guys take playing in a fully contact league like the NHL. But if he doesn't crack his head on the ice apres hit and therefore doesn't bleed so much, I doubt the reaction and rage is the same.

It was a missed call and it happens, but it doesn't have to anymore. We have the technology to fix it, they just won't for some reason. The NHL has no problem changing a rule overnight when Sean Avery screens Brodeur, but allows foolishness like this to happen in 2013, when most fans in the stands have the ability to watch a replay on their smartphone and make an informed decision about a play. It just doesn't make sense that the league can't put a monitor in the score keeper's box for reviews of match penalties. If they wanted to it would be done by tomorrow. They don't.

Luckily it didn't affect the game and the Senators were able to get the win in spite of the bad call. I don't expect Gryba to be suspended, but that's not the point. Almost every hockey analyst agreed that it wasn't even a penalty, let alone anything worse, but that isn't the point either. The point is to take the time to get an important call right and be able to see it slowed down to make an informed, proper decision. If the calls stands after that, fine, I can live with it, but to not even try seems lazy and a lot like a lack of caring by the league to me.

There's a saying that goes, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? In this case, the NHL has left fans looking for a third option.

Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on twitter @SensTown

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