If you haven't yet, read my review on Wednesday night's game between the Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tons of drama. Tons of controversy. Most of which coming from Tampa's 1-3-1 Trap and Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette's decision to make a statement against the disputable defense.
In my article you get the idea that I am completely against any form of the neutral-zone trap. But one may argue that my opinion is biased, seeing as how I am a Flyers fan and the Flyers lost that competition. It's understandable.
For days I could go on and on proclaiming that my stand on the 1-3-1 comes strictly from unprejudiced reasoning, and from my opinion as a purist fan of the sport of hockey.
"We still don't believe you."
Fine. I can accept that.
Rick Gallagher is a family man. A working man. And outside his professional life? Rick is involved with ice hockey. In particular, he's been an official for 15-years, working games from mites through college. He also volunteers as an administrator for a local high school league and has coached at various youth levels.
But he primarily officiates NCAA Hockey games.
Rick is a close, personal friend of Orange And Black Pack writer (Sir) Joseph Bogle. When TrapGate (as the hockey media is now labeling it) broke out, everyone had an opinion. From bloggers like myself, all the way to televised blowhards like Mike Milbury of Versus/NBC Sports.
We (the Pack) reached out to Rick on his take of the touchy subject seeing as how it's his job to remain a neutral, objective law-figure on the ice, officiating the very sport we all love so passionately.
Rick jumped at the chance to clear the air anyway he could. We're very happy to have this opportunity to use him as an inside, professional source.
Take it away, Rick!
"The rules in most sports were created because someone found a loop-hole in a rulebook. Few were better at finding those than the late Roger Neilson. Neilson is personally responsible for several rules we take for granted, such as teams being required to use a goaltender to defend a penalty shot instead of a skater.
On Wednesday night in Tampa, Peter Laviolette channeled Neilson's spirit, minus the snazzy ties. His game plan featured his defensemen waiting in their defensive zone until fore-checked by a Tampa player in order to beat the 1-3-1 neutral zone trap employed by Guy Boucher. The result was two teams more or less standing around looking at each other for a significant portion of the first period during a nationally televised game.
I would imagine that executives from NBC and Versus were even more upset than the fans.
Much of what I have read about the game has been geared towards assigning blame on one coach or the other for what took place on the ice. The reality of the situation is that neither coach did anything that was against the rules. As different as the systems used by both teams are, the results are similar. Both have been successful and stack up comparably statistically this season.
Honestly, I was surprised that the league does not have a rule in place for this situation. The solution will be to adopt a rule similar to that in the NCAA or IIHF rulebooks. Putting it simply, the team in possession of the puck is required to advance the puck towards the opposing team's net whenever they are at even strength and they are not being pressured by their opponents. That solves the problem to the degree that the television executives would no longer have to worry about a game going to a shoot-out after 65 minutes of a team skating circles in their defensive zone.
I believe Laviolette intended to send a message but I do not expect him to receive the response he was hoping for. The ideal resolution to this, for everyone aside from fans of the New Jersey Devils, would be something that eliminates the trap.
The problem there is that it would be just far too difficult to enforce, the game is too fluid and there are just too many variables to make an illegal defense penalty enforceable. If the 1-3-1 is banned, some other version of the trap will quickly take its place. The only way to truly eliminate the chance of this situation in the future is by putting the onus on the team in possession of the puck to attempt to score a goal.
It's a shame that Roger Neilson wasn't alive to see the Peter Laviolette's game plan on Wednesday. I think he would have been proud regardless of how the NHL proceeds from here."
Kerry Fraser, ex-NHL referee and now analyst for TSN, had this to say about Wednesday's fiasco --
"The team that has puck possession must advance the puck through continuous motion as per rule 72. The next time (and each subsequent time) that play is stopped because a team refuses to advance or play the puck a delay of game penalty will be assessed under rule 63. There is no rule in the book that dictates how a team must play defense or how they fore-check. There is a rule however that applies to the team that has puck possession."
When I showed this to Rick Gallagher, he fired back almost as quickly as I brought it to his attention --
"I disagree. [Fraser] contradicts what he wrote in the first paragraph of that same article. No-where in the rulebook is this situation addressed, especially in Rule 72. He is correct that there is no rule mandating a forecheck, but there is also no rule requiring the offensive team to attack. Check out his post from the previous day. His gut thought was that it was legal on both ends."
Alright, so what does all of this prove? Well, nothing really. It still stands as a controversy. Did the situation suck? Of course. But there is not any rule(s) within the book clarifying that either team was in the wrong legally.
No one wants to see the 1-3-1. No one wants to see the staring contest the Flyers pulled against it.
That's what we can all agree on, and because of Wednesday night's icy calamity there's a very high probability that the league will address this in the rulebook sooner down the road than later.