Kevin Bieksa and the "diving list"

Thomas Drance
August 22 2012 08:54PM

 
Kevin Bieksa wants the diving to stop.

As a team, the Canucks have a reputation for being the diviest divers in diverville. During the London 2012 games for example, Twitter was routinely ravaged by predictable jokes that riffed on Vancouver's NHL club using Olympic diving events as a... uh... springboard. I suppose that's the cost of having players who are reputed to be "floppy," and the Canucks employ several in the Sedin twins (not actually divers), Maxim Lapierre, Alex Burrows, Roberto Luongo, and Ryan "tumbleweed" Kesler.

This week in Toronto, a select group of players, officials and team executives met for a "Rules Summit" to discuss, and hopefully address the officiating standards in the NHL. Among the attendees were Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis, and two-way defensive ace Kevin Bieksa.

One issue that has been talked about a fair bit over the past six months or so is the slippage in the standard for what constitutes an obstruction penalty. You can be sure that Mike Gillis, who has addressed this topic at length in the press this offseason, was preoccupied by the fact that power-play opportunities fell to a post-lockout low last season.

But the subject that has apparently dominated the discussion at the "Rules Summit," is the uptick in diving and embelishment league wide and what can be done about it. Per NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen (H/T PHT):

The players in the session, including Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles, led an impassioned discussion on enforcing the diving/embellishment rule (Rule 64.1), Campbell told NHL.com. He said the players want to distribute a list of divers around the League so it can be posted in all 30 dressing rooms and be delivered to the on-ice officials.

"They want to get [the list] out there," Campbell said. "They want the player to be caught, whether it's on the ice by the referee or by us on video. They are all tired of diving. The object is to make them stop eventually and, by doing that, they can get it out there around the League, embarrass them. The referees will know it, too, so the divers don't get the benefit of the doubt."

According to the NHL Rulebook, players who violate the diving/embellishment rule can be subject to supplementary discipline through fine and/or suspension. Campbell said there was no appetite among the group attending the two-day summit to suspend repeat offenders, because the players feel the punishment that comes with having your name on the divers' list would be enough to reduce the frequency with which the tactic is used.

"I talk about players being smart, they figure out when they can get calls. That's a concern," said Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, also on hand for the rules summit. "I was glad to see the players in the meeting were concerned with it also. It's an area of our game that I think we can clean up.""

Well excuse me while I wipe my eyes and make an exagerated windshield wiper sound effect. Is that Canucks roster player Kevin Bieksa leading the anti-embellishment charge?

Some fans, and other team's employees have expressed surprise that Kevin Bieksa would advocate for the creation of a "diving list" that would likely point a judgemental (and highly political) finger at several of his teammates. But the fact is that such a position is consistent with Bieksa's public comments in the past. Most notably, Bieksa expressed dismay over the lack of "integrity" displayed by his own teammates during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. Here's a quote he gave the Vancouver Province in May of that year (per PHT, the Province has "moved" the original article):

“I know guys will do whatever it takes for a power play to win a game,” Bieksa said. “But sometimes they’re crossing that line of integrity. I think for the better of the game, for the good of the game we need people to stay on that line and not cross it, and not dive and exaggerate for calls.”

“It’s not cheating,” Bieksa said. “It’s within the rules and if the referee wants to assess it, he can penalize you for it. It’s not cheating but it is a matter of integrity.”

In theory, targeting the embellishment issue as a "matter of integrity" is sort of what a "diving list" would do, though I'm skeptical about whether such a document would actually improve the quality of the league's officiating.  I find it hard to believe that a public list of "known divers" wouldn't end up reading more like an "open season" list, that would give opposing players a green light to hack away at a guy like Alex Burrows, or Dustin Brown, or Joe Thornton with relative impunity. And maybe it's just me but the idea of former NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell getting excited by the prospect of outing "little fake artists" makes me queasy. 

Frankly, "reputation" already does a pretty good job of regulating the likelihood of an individual getting the "benefit of the doubt" from referees. Take Ryan Kesler, a dominant possession player with footspeed to burn, who saw the rate at which he draws penalties crater this season: from 1.5 peantlies drawn/60 in 2010-11, to 0.6 penalties drawn/60 during the past campaign (source: behindthenet.ca)...

It's odd, but this is the second time this offseason that the Canucks have championed a cause or rule change that would hypotetically work against their own club. At the General Managers meetings in May, Mike Gillis proposed that a minor penalty should be called whenever a face-off man swipes the puck back to his teammates using his hands, and the rule change was eventually adopted by the league. Gillis proposed this, even though his club has been in the top-3 in NHL faceoff percentage over the past two seasons, or ever since they acquired Manny Malhotra - one of the league's foremost practioners of the "hand pass faceoff win." 

In the first round of the 2012 postseason, the Canucks carried an unsustainably low shooting percentage. Unsurprisingly that number has regressed this offseason: the team has gone two for two when aiming at their own feet.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Man
August 22 2012, 09:06PM
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Worst idea I've ever heard. I can't believe the league would even 'think' of allowing such a thing.

First of all, who creates this list? Who's going to go through 10+ years of tape to create this list of divers? By the end of it, 85% of the league will be on this list.

Secondly, diving is subjective. How do we, as observers, know when someone was legitimately hurt and/or just lost their balance? Maybe someone has an undiagnosed condition that effects their balance. I knew a few people like that.

Lastly, come on. This is the 21st century. Creating a 'list' of people who one person believes to violate certain rules, than posting it everywhere is a joke. It violates so many moral codes it's ridiculous. There's just no way the league can allow this.

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#3 Nat
August 22 2012, 09:50PM
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@Man

I agree too. The questions "who creates this list?" and "How do we, as observers, know when someone was legitimately hurt and/or just lost their balance?".

I really want players like Kesler to cut the junk out of their game, but I just don't see how a list could actually be fair in reality. Who runs it? How does one get off such a list? Do they have to have below a certain number of dives? For how long must they be reformed? Who is keeping track?

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#4 puck-bandit
August 22 2012, 10:23PM
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This is too funny; I'm sitting here watching diving ocean birds, going for the big fish 40 ft down... I credit Kevin Bieksa for his candor, and the acknowledgement around some of his team that practice this bad habit. 2010/2011 season was really bad for the swan dive, and of course we know who they are. It is a great idea to stop this practice, but it comes with some really ugly consequence. We all know that some of the yappy players are going to have a field day on twitter, etc... the second someone makes the list. Not good for the game, and why give the media more poison to run with when things are slow.

It is also a bit of a head scratch that MG and KB were there, knowing that at times we have a pretty sad record for the swan, jack-knife, and butterfly. On the other hand, I commend them for sending a message that this undignified practice should stop.

At the rate things are going they may have all year to sit and jaw about all the bad things going on in our game. We could very-well become totally dependent on you guys giving us something to read if we don't get our Hockey fix. They need to dive into those negotiations and get a deal done.

Good Read; thanks

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#5 KleptoKlown
August 23 2012, 02:59AM
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I am sure each team and all refs already have their own unofficial list.

Personally think diving disgraces the logo on the front of the jersey, and I would love to see the refs call more unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

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#6 fisherman
August 23 2012, 03:33AM
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But isn't everything CBA related right now... With players like raffi torres getting record setting suspensions based largely on reputation alone, and losing big money for it, of course the PA wants a bigger say in the rules & officiating... "the list" or other lists like it could end up factoring into supplemental discipline and fines down the road... or not.

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#7 Chris Edwards
August 23 2012, 09:28AM
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Having a "list" seems to benefit the players. No fines and no suspensions = no money lost. My opinion, that's why they want the list. I think you could take a page from soccer, where an accumulation of penalties (like yellow cards) results in a 1-game suspension... but I doubt the players want that.

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#8 Unknown Comic
August 23 2012, 10:13AM
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Diving is very much linked to officiating. The game is called according to score, period and who had the last powerplay, instead of by the rule book. So players will look to "draw" a penalty because they know the ref is looking to call something to even things out.

Call the rule book at all times, including diving, and it will all shrink considerably.

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#9 Man
August 23 2012, 08:55PM
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@Unknown comic

I agree. I think what we know consider "diving" is a problem under a much larger umbrella. The umbrella is officiating. Likely why it was brought up at this officiating meeting. Diving is a symptom of a much larger issue. Until the league wants to tackle the 'elephant in the room', then diving will always be in the sport.

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#10 Matt Hastings
August 24 2012, 04:20PM
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If this list is created from this point forward then it makes sense Bieksa and the Nucks push for it. They were offenders for sure, but certainly not the worst. The west coast Canadian powerhouse was just an easier target then some of the other frequent offenders. That said, The refs already kept lists and they havent helped so far. Red flags and video review would slow the game down only if it was abused. Let the coaches call for it-- then use suspensions or 5min penalties to clean the game up.

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