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Auston Matthews, Gabriel Landeskog become latest stars to blast NHL refs

NHL refs

When two of the NHL’s superstars are upset about calls made by NHL refs in the same night in different time zones across the continent, it might be an indication that something is wrong with the refereeing.

Sure, there have been several cries against the NHL refs of late, with regards to game management penalty calling and a suspicious lack of suspensions, especially when it comes to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.

But, things have been especially grim in the black and white stripes of late. First, in a tilt between the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Islanders, the referees called a cross-checking call against a New York Islander and a matching embellishment call against the cross-checked Avalanche player, Tyson Jost.

It’s rare and nearly impossible to have an embellishment call when someone is hit in the head. It was so questionable, in fact, that even the Islanders’ color commentators plead Jost’s case, confused by the call.

In another instance, fans were upset that the Edmonton Oilers’ Zach Hyman did not get a penalty call that would have seen his team go on the power play. But, things came to a head on Thursday night when.

In a tight matchup between Colorado and the Carolina Hurricanes, Avs forward Nazem Kadri got called for a questionable penalty. If an iffy call wasn’t bad enough, he later had an obvious penalty committed on him that NHL refs seemingly ignored. It resulted in a goal, a Canes’ game-winner in a 1-0 contest.

Kadri was visibly upset, slamming his stick on the ice and yelling expletives on the bench for minutes on end. When Landeskog skated over and defended his teammate – his duty as the team captain for a decade – he was ejected. It’s an interesting call, considering Landeskog does not swear on the ice and is known to show respect–even when unhappy with calls. But, this time, he didn’t mince his words during a post-game press conference.

Gabriel Landeskog blasts NHL refs

NHL: New York Islanders at Colorado Avalanche
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

During his press conference with reports, Colorado’s captain first took a balanced approach by highlighting that he has never taken aim at referees publicly during his career and even complimenting the men who tossed him from the game.

“Before you guys start, in 11 years, I’ve never sat and talked about referees in a press conference ever. I think (NHL refs) Wes (McCauley) and TJ Luxmore do a great job tonight for 50-some minutes of the game. They called a high stick on Naz (Nazem Kadri) on (Nino) Niederreiter, which might have been a high stick but Niederreiter falls easy.”

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on NHL refs Thursday night, via Peter Baugh

But he then addressed the questionable high-sticking call that Kadri was penalized with. Landeskog said that he agreed with Kadri, that Niederreiter embellished the play. But, no matter, the Avs killed that penalty. So he’s still giving the NHL refs the benefit of the doubt.

“We’re arguing it’s a flop. They say it’s still a high stick. Fair enough. With 5:50 remaining, Niederreiter is hooking Naz up the boards. The puck turns over, we go the other way, they score. We’re arguing that it’s a hook. They’re saying Naz is flopping. We’re arguing it’s still a hook, just like they were arguing before.”

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on the discussion with NHL refs regarding missed penalty

It’s the inconsistency that bothers the captain, but he tells Luxmore that he’s unhappy with the amount of non-calls surrounding Kadri in the game, particularly in the third period.

Related: Gabriel Landeskog suspension proves NHL double standard

“It’s unfortunate because that’s a playoff game tonight,” he said. “Whether a guy has been suspended numerous times or not, is he going to be carrying around that heavy baggage forever? I’m not saying TJ and Wes didn’t call it for that reason, but Naz is a guy that’s competitive. Whether he sold that call or not, you can look at the video and the stick is in his waist and that’s why he loses the puck. Sometimes it’s time for players to step up and speak their truth,” he said. “I’m the one looking like an idiot for getting thrown out of the game even though I’m just being honest. I guess TJ didn’t like that I said he had a tough night.”

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog

Auston Matthews calls out questionable calls

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Diplomatic as he was, Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews had a similar complaint, arguing before an Arizona offensive play even developed that the NHL refs did not make a penalty call against Jakob Chychrun.

It cost the Leafs the game, losing 5-4 in overtime to Arizona. For the second time on Thursday, a missed penalty resulted in influencing the outcome with a game-deciding goal. On Chyrchrun’s goal, the referees missed that the Coyotes’ blue liner grabbed Matthews’ stick, hindering him, right in view of NHL refs. It’s a play that has to be called, and should not have resulted in a goal at all, especially a game-winner.

Cameras cut to Matthews visibly upset on the ice, yelling choice words at the NHL refs in the vein that calls like these need to be made. It’s hard to argue against him, especially when the play happened right in front of a referee.

A short time ago, many NHL players were afraid to–or less inclined to–speak out against NHL refs. Does Landeskog’s speech–respectfully angry as it may have been–set the tone for future complaints of the same nature? Do all of these complaints in such a short window spur a change in NHL refs? Will we finally see consistency in game calling across the league? In the case of Nazem Kadri, his current teammate Landeskog, and his former teammate Matthews, their answer is likely hopeful.

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