Sabotage

ROBBY:
Last week, Puck Daddy had a provocative post on whether or not the referees favored the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was an interesting piece, if not flawed in its methodology. Personally, I had issues with the fact that the writer included fighting majors in the analysis, which heavily skewed the results. Regardless, I thought it was an interesting topic and it's something that I've often wondered about our Anaheim Ducks.

Do the referees hate us?

We all have anecdotal evidence about horrendous calls against us while the zebras simultaneously swallow their whistles. There are games, like those against Phoenix and Calgary this year, that just make you shake your head in disgust at the awfulness of the calls. But in reality, fans of every team have similar experiences and you wouldn't be a hockey fan if you didn't think your team was repeatedly getting jobbed by the officials.

In an effort to objectively analyze our strife, I went to the team statistics from NHL.com. While this is certainly not to be taken as the final, definitive word on the situation, it does shed some interesting light on the penalty situation in the Pacific Division.

Before we get started, a quick word about my methodology here. Because I don't have endless amounts of time to write posts (especially with a newborn), I only looked at teams in the Pacific Division this year and last year. While I would have preferred to get even more granular in my analysis by only accounting for penalties that are entirely in the referees' discretion (as opposed to "automatic" penalties like Delay of Game, Too Many Men, etc.), I think looking at minor penalty numbers, as well as overall man advantage/shorthanded numbers, give us a pretty clear view of the situation. After all, we're trying to discern any sort of bias here, and automatic penalties or fighting majors are going to skew that analysis.

2010 Stats (Before play began on 12/18/10)

# Minor Penalties*

Minors/GP

Total PIM

Anaheim

151

4.31

526

Phoenix

129

4.30

331

Dallas

130

4.19

433

San Jose

127

3.97

418

Los Angeles

112

3.86

394

* Does not include bench minors

PP Opps

PP/G

PK Opps

PK/G

PP/PK Diff

Anaheim

119

3.40

142

4.06

-0.66

Phoenix

103

3.43

117

3.90

-0.47

Los Angeles

119

4.10

112

3.86

0.24

Dallas

128

4.13

119

3.84

0.29

San Jose

133

4.16

116

3.63

0.53

2009-2010 Stats

# Minor Penalties*

Minors/GP

Total PIM

Anaheim

389**

4.74

1317

San Jose

374

4.56

1137

Los Angeles

345

4.21

963

Phoenix

329

4.01

905

Dallas

313

3.82

955

* Does not include bench minors

** 27th in the league

PP Opps

PP/G

PK Opps

PK/G

PP/PK Diff

Anaheim

300*

3.66

324**

3.95

-0.29

San Jose

309

3.77

327

3.99

-0.22

Phoenix

314

3.83

317

3.87

-0.04

Los Angeles

307

3.74

304

3.71

0.03

Dallas

328

4.00

288

3.51

0.49

*23rd in the league

** 7th in the league

The numbers seem to reinforce what we all feel as Ducks fans on two fronts: a) we are the most penalized team in the Pacific (and one of the most penalized in the entire league) and b) we don't get a whole lot of calls in return. In fact, if you compare all of the numbers, there isn't a ton of movement from last year to this year (although I am surprised that San Jose had a negative PP/PK differential last season).

Why does this happen? There are several possible explanations, the most nefarious and tin-foil hat of them being that the NHL hates the Ducks. During our Pronger years, we certainly developed a reputation as a physical/dirty team (like it or not, that was the perception). However, we've been without Pronger or any abjectly dirty player (Corey Perry can be a douche bag, but his play and reputation don't quite reach Pronger levels) for the past two seasons. All of this begs the question: Is there a reputation issue with the Ducks or are we just a sloppy team?

Given the turnover in staff from last year to this year, you would think that sloppiness may not be a credible explanation. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, there is little movement from last year to this year (except that San Jose is now less penalized). These facts together do seem to indicate that referees may officiate based on perceptions more than anything else. After all, we know that make-up calls happen and that it's much easier to draw a penalty if you're already on the PK. So it's not completely beyond the pale to suggest that referees make calls based entirely on the rulebook.

While I'm not completely comfortable saying that the referees hate us, it does seem strange that the referees in Friday night's New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators game decided to assess a penalty to Anaheim during Alexander Sulzer's hook.

What do you think? Are we a sloppy team or do the zebras have it out for us?

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