Monday, 7 October 2013

Spinning Their Wheels

Mason Raymond shows off some skill as he pulls off a pristine spin-o-rama in front of Craig Anderson. Raymond scored on the play, and the Maple Leafs went on to capture the victory in the shootout thanks to Raymond's move. But I will say this now: I don't like it. I'm not a fan of the spin-o-rama move on a penalty shot or in a shootout because it gives the shooter a distinct advantage over the goaltender. I waited patiently, and the NHL responded with its ruling on the spin-o-rama today.

NHL Executive Vice-President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell reportedly had a conference call with managers and coaches on September 30 where it was made clear what is acceptable when it comes to the spin-move performed in the shootout.

"What I said to the managers on our call," Campbell explained, "to managers and coaches, to make sure to inform the players that if they do try this move that we will be examining it closely and they could very well have a goal taken back. It could happen if - one - there is interference on the goaltender or - two - the puck stops completely or - three - their motion stops completely and/or reverses."

Ok, so that clears up nothing but the obvious. It's fairly clear that if there is any interference on a goaltender at any time that any goal scored during the interference would cause said goal to be waved off. That's elementary. No question there. And the puck stopping completely? If it comes to rest, that's pretty easy to judge. Again, no real controversy there. If the puck stops completely, the play is dead.

But where I find issue is in the "their motion stops completely and/or reverses". Mason Raymond's forward motion does stop in terms of momentum, but see that spray of ice? That's a hard stopping motion. Otherwise, he'd be sitting on top of Craig Anderson if he allowed his momentum to carry him forward. Campbell attempted to clarify this as well. "If the puck stops, or if the player’s momentum stops, and particularly reverses, then there’s an issue," Campbell said. "The problem is if you’re skating forward, you can pull the puck back, or stickhandle, and that will stop (the puck) at times, or a curl-and-drag sometimes will stop it. There is some confusion and misinterpretation."

And therein lies the problem. There should never be confusion nor misinterpretation of a rule. It will happen, but the league needs to take a stance on what is allowed by measure of a rule and what is not. Therefore, I consulted the NHL Rule Book for the following passage in Section 24.2:
The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360 (degree) turn as he approaches the goal, shall be permitted as this involves continuous motion. However, should the puck come to a complete stop at any time during the shot attempt, the shot shall be stopped and no goal will be the result.
So as long as there is "continuous motion", the spin-o-rama is a legal move as per the rule written into the NHL Rule Book. That seems pretty cut-and-dry to me since Mason Raymond's move was a continuous motion regardless of whether he was facing Anderson or not. So good goal, right?

However, I agree with Paul MacLean's assessment of the play. "I think it’s a very unfair play for the goaltender for the guy to come in and blow snow on him," MacLean said, explaining why he thought Raymond’s attempt shouldn’t have counted. "I’m only a fisherman from Nova Scotia, so I don’t know nothing about nothing." And that's the issue I have with the goal as well.

Snowing the goaltender should automatically be goaltender interference in a shootout. Players are assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty if they snow a goaltender intentionally in the regular season, so why is snowing a goaltender in the shootout acceptable? If the spin-move sends snow onto a goaltender that would restrict his sightline to the puck, that goal should not be counted. If we are counting these goals, why can't I just come down and spray the goaltender with water before attempting a shot? What's the difference? In both cases, I've distracted if not impaired the goaltender's vision. Yet one is allowed and the other is not.

Or is it? I spoke with MJHL linesman and friend of The Hockey Show Jeremie Gauvin about this very topic. His understanding is that there is nothing in the rules that states that a goal is to be waved off during an unintentional snowing of the goaltender, so the Raymond goal would have to be a good goal by rule. And perhaps that's the key word in all of this - "unintentional". So my complaints are just like Paul MacLean's - unfounded.

There needs to be one ultimate solution to this, and perhaps Jeremie said it best when he stated, "All I am looking for is if the puck keeps moving forward." Until there is something definitive in the books, there's little point in debating whether or not this goal was good. It IS a good goal by the rules listed, and this defining what a good goal is in the shootout shouldn't even be necessary despite the protests of the Ottawa Senators and Paul MacLean.

Then again, maybe he should just talk to his goaltender. "Just clap your hands," Craig Anderson told reporters. "You've got to say, 'Congratulations, good play."'

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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