The Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off this evening with three big games and in the coming two months will provide us with intense drama. It will also provide us with diving. Along with that diving will come players, coaches, general managers, fans , columnists and anyone with a rooting interest in complaining about diving.
When the complaining about diving becomes as bad as the diving itself we have reached critical mass.
Some things that we need to get out on the table before we go any further. Is diving a growing problem in the NHL? Yes. Should something be done about it? Absolutely. Is there one team that dives more than the other? Not really.
You can easily make a compilation of dive videos that would brand every team a bunch of divers as this industrious Canadiens fan has done:
This can be done because, yes, all teams do have guys who have gone down easier than the smoothest whiskey. It happens, it’s hard to watch (and admit to) when it’s a guy on a team you follow but it’s the cold hard truth.
Every year in the playoffs, with the heightened stakes, the diving issue becomes larger and larger. One peculiar aspect to this however is that the team that seems to do the most complaining is always the underdog, or team that is behind in the series.
Taking a look at last year’s playoffs, it started in round one when the Anaheim Ducks fell behind the Nashville Predators in the opening round. Ducks General Manager Bob Murray was so frustrated that he claimed Nashville was diving so much that the Ducks were going to have to start diving more to keep up.
Nashville went on to win that series and less than a week later found themselves down to the Vancouver Canucks (who have become the poster children for diving) and were quick to blame key penalties on Canucks embellishments.
In San Jose’s series with the Detroit Red Wings, Sharks captain Joe Thornton took one of the most epic and comical dives in the league’s history.
That’s the team captain doing that. Then, a week later after dropping Game 1 to the Vancouver Canucks, Thornton’s teammate complained about the Canucks and their diving antics. Remember, this is just days after his captain took a leap that would make Greg Louganis proud.
Did the Canucks dive? Without a doubt they have guys who will do that. Did Joe Thornton dive? The evidence is pretty clear he did. Did the Predators go down too easy against the Ducks? Probably.
Is complaining about it after a loss gamesmanship or deflection? Either way, it’s annoying.
So where do we go?
Asking every team to stop complaining is about as futile as asking every player to not dive. It’s still going to happen. Just remember that when you hear it, it probably is coming from the losing team who is desperate to find an edge to get back in their series. Feel free to ignore the complaints.
That doesn’t mean you have to ignore the dives, but just don’t entertain a coach’s self-righteous claims about the other team. Every team has the stain of diving on their hands.
There will be dives in this playoff season and those dives may result in a key power play goal being scored and someone moving on. There will be considerable and understandable outrage. Diving needs to be looked at by the NHL but the answer to the problem is unclear. Perhaps only calling the unsportsmanlike penalty when someone dives would be a start. Or the league could look at suspending a player once they have taken a set amount of dives.
Whatever action they take will be a step forward because not only will it help the integrity of the game, but it will get all these player, coaches and general managers to have to answer for their teams failures without the scapegoat of the other team cheating.