Brendan Shanahan went on a tirade after the Rangers' 2-1 home loss to Toronto about the way NHL officials treat Jaromir Jagr. "Such disrespect from the referees," he said. "He gets mauled every game. I don't know what it is, if there's some sort of prejudice again him or what the deal is. Guys hit him late, guys hit him high, guys hook his hands. He doesn't complain -- he just goes out and plays and plays and plays. And the referees just seem to have a different set of rules about the way people get to play against him. I'm trying to eliminate the reasons why. But he could draw a penalty almost every shift because of guys chopping at his hands, reaching in on him. It's all season, it's not just tonight. It's like a difference set of rules. The refs allow more on him. If he was 170 pounds and fell down every time someone reached in on him -- the standards should be the same for all players regardless of their size and strength and ability."
Shanahan made a comparison between Jagr and other stars. "The NBA didn't let people grab [Michael] Jordan by the waist every time he went up for a jump shot," he said. "I've played with other superstars and they get a whole lot more respect than this guy. Mats Sundin goes down first period, first shift -- penalty. Jaromir Jagr's gotta carry guys on his back all season long. It didn't happen to Steve Yzerman, didn't happen to Nik Lidstrom, it never happened to Mike Modano. Joe Sakic -- I've seen it all. There's a certain amount of respect -- guys who have the puck on their stick a lot draw penalties. Jags never draws penalties. There's a different set of rules refs have for him. It's a different set of rules for Jaromir Jagr."
He compared the bias to what Slava Fetisov experienced when he was one of the first players to come over from the Soviet Union. "I've just never seen a star player get ignored [like Jagr]," he said. "Not since Fetisov came over from Russia have I ever seen a star player get ignored by the referees. I know why they were ignoring him [Fetisov] back then. But I don't know why they're ignoring the hooks and the holds and the chops and the late hits on Jaromir Jagr. He's been a great player for this league for a long time. I don't know what it is, all I know is that it exists."
He emphasized that he wasn't talking solely about tonight's game, even though the officiating was one-sided, as it usually is when the Rangers play a Canadian team. "It's a cumulative effect," he said. "They had six power plays to our two. Specifically in the second period, there were some plays where Jags had the puck in the offensive zone where he could have drawn two or three penalties. But it's something I've seen every night. It's time to say something on his behalf. He doesn't complain, but I'll do it for him. I don't think he wants to [dive] -- I don't think it's in him. I would never tell a player to do that."
Jagr himself did not complain about how the officiating affected him, but he did have one sarcastic remark about the officiating overall. "They had more power plays -- I don't know how that happened," he said. "Wow! Sometimes they [the refs] just close their eyes. That's where they [the Leafs] get their chances."
Shanahan, who as we all well know by know was instrumental in helping to set new standards of officiating after the lockout, believes things are starting to resemble the old days. "I wouldn't be happy if the refs put the whistle in the pocket for both teams," he said. "I think the rules should be called regardless of the score. The call on Matt Cullen at the end of the game was the right call. I just don't think they were calling that same play [for us]. The calls in general have dropped -- we're starting to creep back to the way it was. I say that not as a player who just lost a game, who's upset about the Jagr situation. It's something I've felt watching games on TV. We're certainly creeping back the other way a little bit with the first tug, the first reach -- crosschecking is right back in the game."
Tom Renney was caught a bit by surprise when learning what Shanahan said. "Shanny said that, did he?" he said. "Shanny was really upset tonight, huh?" But he picked up the rallying cry all the same. "You gotta wonder," he said. "I just watched probably eleven clips where the opposition held sticks, held jerseys, had face-off interference, cross-checked -- what did I miss?" You missed some uncalled trips, hooks, roughing, and interference -- at least six more instances in total. "That about sums it up. I sure saw a lot of penalties tonight that were non-calls. You look at the footage, you say, 'Wow!' There's three faceoff interference non-calls, there's two holding the jersey non-calls, there's a couple holding the stick calls, there's a crosschecking call -- and all of sudden you're asking yourself what happened?"
Asked specifically about any prejudice toward Jagr, Renney said, "I don't know if it's a bias, I don't know what happens to other teams, to their best players." He said he might take it up with league VP Colin Campbel. "I probably would have a talk with him," he said. "They're good at that -- as long as your respect the process and don't go crazy on them, they're open to that kind of feedback. They need it, and we need the rationalization back." Although he regretted the game being taken out of his team's hands, he wouldn't use it as an excuse. "It was one of those games where it would have been nice if maybe we could have decided the outcome," he said. "[But] I'm not going to justify a loss by that, that's for sure -- we lost the hockey game, period."
Nevertheless, he felt the Rangers played a good game but lost because the bounces went the other way, and both of his stars felt the same way. "Solid performance," Renney said. "Solid effort. A couple of mistakes were capitalized on. I thought we played a good hockey game, one we could have won. If we play like this the balance of the games, we'll win more than we'll lose." One of the bad breaks was a centering pass by Alexei Ponikarovsky that deflected in off Aaron Ward's skate in front. A couple of other bad breaks were goal mouth chances by Shanahan that were deflected away, one before the Leafs took the lead, one after.
But the deciding goal was not a bad break, it was a bad error -- Karel Rachunek's pass to Martin Straka in front of the net was cut off by Ian White and quickly turned around into a breakaway pass to Sundin that he converted for the game winner. While Rachunek was a bit guilty of admiring his pass, the responsibility for Sundin belonged to his defense partner, Thomsa Pock, who initially started back into the neutral zone but then inexplicably turned back into the Leafs' zone. "You've got to cut the ice in half as the off-side defenseman and be in front of something that might come out," Renney said of the play. But he said that Pock wasn't benched for the costly miscue. "We were getting to the short strokes, so we decided to shorten the back end and try to generate more offense. I realize that's Tommy's forte but -- it's a learning experience [for him]."
The Rangers have now given up only eight goals (excluding one empty net goal) in their past six games (all Henrik Lundqvist). But they're only 3-3 in those games because they've scored only six goals in five of those six games (plus six in the sixth game)... In addition to Pock, Dan Girardi and Colton Orr saw no ice time after Sundin's go-ahead goal, while Adam Hall, Marcel Hossa, Blair Betts, and Jason Krog saw limited ice time rotating through Shanahan's line -- they generated just two shots on goal throughout the game (Shanahan also had four power play shots)... The line of Matt Cullen, Petr Prucha, and Jed Ortmeyer were matched up against Toronto's top line much of the time, and played them even (they scored on the power play and against the first line) -- although they were outshot 9-7 and Prucha took three penalties.
Game reports all over the place, mostly but not exclusively on Shanahan's tirade -- Daily News, Newsday, Journal News, Post, Times, Record, Advance, AP, SNY, and NY Sports Day, with more from the Record, AP. SNY, and NY Sports Day. Toronto area reports mostly about how Andrew Raycroft stole this game for the Leafs -- Sun, Star, Globe & Mail, and National Post, with more from the Sun on Shanahan. Beyond that, not much -- just a feature on Aaron Ward at NHL.com. And of course, a day wouldn't be complete without Jess Rubenstein's daily prospect update:
A fun-filled night at the OHL All-Star game featured three key Ranger prospects. Marc Staal was the captain of the Eastern Conference All-Stars who won 13-9 over the Western Conference, which was captained by Tom Pyatt and had Bobby Sanguinetti on defense. Only Staal registered a point (one assist) but it was a fun time had by all. Before we get to the game action, it is time for the weekly CHL Top 10 and lookie lookie we gots future Rangers helping their teams. Medicine Hat (Michael Sauer) is number two, Kootenay (Ryan Russell) is number three, and Lewiston (Marc-Andre Cliche) is seventh. This poll is voted on by NHL scouts, so it is not a beauty pageant.
Back to game action. Cliche remained out of the Lewiston lineup with a possible concussion. Hint to teams out there: the more you don’t want to talk, the more you say about how badly a player is hurt. At the same time, I support the CHL in erring on the side of caution by keeping anyone who suffers a head injury sidelined for seven days, no ifs, ands, or buts. Lewiston did not miss their leader as they blew out Saint Johns, 7-2. The Rangers' other QMJHL prospect, Ryan Hillier, netted his 25th as Halifax defeated Acadie-Bathurst, 5-3.
In the WHL, Lukas Zeliska got to watch again from the press box as Prince Albert took on Kelowna. Judging from the score sheet, Zeliska might be watching more than playing, as the Raiders had little trouble beating the Rockets, 4-1. Eric Hunter and Prince George traveled south on I-5 to Seattle to face the Thunderbirds, going to overtime to win 3-2. Hunter did not score. Sauer may not have scored, but Medicine Hat are starting to pull away from the pack in the standings, edging Saskatoon 5-4 in an OT thriller.
Our featured game tonight was a battle of Ranger prospect captains as Ryan Russell led Kootenay into Calgary to face Brodie Dupont and his Hitmen. Calgary has been struggling. When their leader "Moose" Dupont is on, so are the Hitmen. Dupont’s 25th goal was the game winner. He added an assist as his Hitmen defeated the Ice, 3-1, to earn second star of the game. Russell ended the month with another assist to finish with three goals and 13 assists, the leading prospect scorer for the January. Think people can guess who is going to be Prospect Park’s player of the month?
Stars of the Night: First Star -- Brodie Dupont (Calgary WHL) -- When the Moose is on, the Hitmen are tough to beat. His goal and assist were the difference in Calgary's win. Second Star -- Ryan Hillier (Halifax QMJHL) -- He does what is asked of him. We wanted to see a strong second half and Hillier is delivering. Third Star -- Ryan Russell (Kootenay WHL) -- We have called Russell a Prucha clone. Maybe we should call Prucha a Russell Clone as Russell does it all at both ends of the ice. No longer can people say he is not big enough to play in the NHL -- the question instead is when will he get his Ranger sweater?