Murph’s Musings: Blame The Referees For Embellishment, Not Just NHL Players

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty of criticism and accusations of embellishment heaved the Canadiens’ way during and after Game 4. As I tweeted earlier on Monday: Did the Habs embellish at times last night? Yes. Is it annoying? Yes. But every team does it and will until refs actually try to eliminate it! Sometimes the Canadiens are more guilty of this than other teams but it’s pure hypocrisy when their arch-rivals, the Boston Bruins call them out for embellishment. The Bruins have started to follow suit and do their fair share of looking for calls with some Oscar-worthy acting. It’s a league-wide issue and it won’t stop until the league decides to try harder to rid their game of this growing epidemic.

In his must-read column “Making The Call” at TSN.ca  former NHL referee Kerry Fraser — as he always does — eloquently expanded on that point and agreed that it’s not just on the players to stop this great game from looking like soccer.

“Until players that embellish are penalized by the referees and held accountable by the League with published fines and suspensions as prescribed in rule 64.3, this illegal act will continue to plague the game. It’s time for everyone involved to man-up,” Fraser said.

Fraser also has what I think is a great idea to curb the diving and embellishment.

“Three years ago I suggested that a double minor penalty be assessed to the ‘diver’ when he was legitimately fouled and the referee was calling a minor penalty,” Fraser said. “It would take some guts for the refs to impose a strict standard on a call like this but the game would be better for it. The referees also have to know their calls would receive the full support of management.”

I would go even further and if a player receives a diving or embellishment penalty three times in a season, he gets a one-game suspension. As Fraser pointed out though the key will be for the powers that be in the NHL and also NHL teams to do their part. Until then though, please spare us the hypocrisy of teams and their fans, even media that cover the team accusing other team’s of diving and embellishment.

Thanks and kudos to Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault by the way for not calling the Habs and the referees out after Game 4. Yes it’s easier to not do so after a win but there’s been plenty of coaches who have.

It should also be noted that this embellishment problem is a byproduct of what seems to be a deteriorating state of refereeing in the playoffs overall.

“This refereeing in the playoffs has been a bleeping joke! They need to clean it up and get on the same page.”

He’s absolutely right and as former NHL referee Paul Stewart told me on “Murphy’s Hockey Law” Saturday, there may be “too much looking over the shoulders and wondering what their bosses would want them to do” on the part of many current NHL referees. The fact that both referees missed the Brandon Prust cheap shot on Derek Stepan was atrocious and just can’t happen, especially in the playoffs. Does this happen if the refs aren’t always worried to make a bold call or admit a mistake? Maybe it’s time referees face the same accountability the players face and be available to the media after games? Whatever the solution, here’s hoping it arrives sooner rather than later because the Stanley Cup playoffs are still the best tournament in pro sports and we need to keep it that way!

James Murphy is a freelance reporter who also writes for NHL.com. He covered the Boston Bruins/NHL for last 11 seasons writing for ESPNBoston.com, ESPN.com, NHL.com, NESN.com, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine. Murphy also currently hosts “Murphy’s Hockey Law” (Saturdays 9-11 AM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio and 4-6 PM ET on Websportsmedia.com. He is also a regular guest TSN 690 in Montreal and Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio.