It’s that time of year, or one of them, when NHL general managers gather and discuss some of the issues or changes that might be headlining the game. While there were a number of things on the docket for these meetings, NHL officiating seemed to be the number one topic amongst those not attending the meetings — media and fans, alike.
While Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas will tell you that it was the Respect Hockey panel led by Kim Davis that was the major takeaway from the meetings, he did have some lighter input on what was discussed surrounding officiating in the game when asked by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.
Dubas softly touched on the NHL’s state of officiating without calling on the discrepancies that have faced his team in that category over the past couple of months. Instead, he chose to relay what was said during George Parros’ presentation and from Stephen Walkom, who is currently the vice president and director of officiating for the NHL.
Questions Still Surround NHL Officiating
According to Dubas, Walkom took the GMs through the evolution of the game of hockey and how some penalties that are being called have an impact on the game. While he wouldn’t call into question the officiating the Maple Leafs have seen this season, there have been some questionable calls league-wide with many fanbases looking for answers to their inconsistencies.
As for the Maple Leafs, they’ve drawn the fewest penalties per 60 minutes this season in the entire NHL at just 3.13 per 60 minutes. And they’ve been called for the fifth fewest penalties this season at 3.33 per 60 minutes.
What much of Leafs Nation has called for is more penalties drawn by their star player in Auston Matthews. Matthews who leads the NHL in goals with 48 has drawn just 9 minor penalties this season, while two missed calls came on game-winning goals against in the past month — or so some would argue.
As for Dubas, he says the response to officiating is often emotionally charged when a team or fanbase is unhappy. That changes when you’re getting the calls and that changes again when the playoffs start, at which point modifications seem to be made to what gets called and what doesn’t.
When it comes to what is plaguing the league right now, Dubas noted that it was mentioned at the meetings that there is an uptick in crosschecking penalties being called this season, while instances of kneeing has increased as well this year.
Maple Leafs Need Consistency, Dubas Says
Marek followed that up by asking Dubas what the Maple Leafs need to do to be successful and the general manager had a simple answer — consistency.
The Maple Leafs have gotten up this season for team’s that are higher up in the standings, while teams likely going to miss out on the playoffs have plagued the blue and white this season.
Dubas noted that the Maple Leafs can’t just get to the playoffs and flick a switch. Rather they need to be playing at that top level for the remainder of the season. Part of that is not giving up the first goal and getting a full 60 minutes out of the team.
This season the Maple Leafs have given up the first goal 29 times. In those games, the Maple Leafs are 13-13-8 which could be what Dubas is talking about when it comes to simple consistency within a singe game — at least in part.
That said, Leafs Nation has seen some late season losses to teams under that playoff threshold, including the Montreal Canadies, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators. These are the team’s that the Maple Leafs need to wake up for because taking them lightly has never helped this team get through the first round.
As for what can be taken away from the GM meetings, it seems there’s still a lot more to discuss when it comes to NHL officiating overall.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.