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Wednesday, 13 February 2013 05:43

Broncos finding out size sometimes does matter

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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The Broncos have to watch the penalties when they get in tight situations. The Broncos have to watch the penalties when they get in tight situations.

Do the Western Hockey League’s referees hate the Swift Current Broncos?

A few years of hard investigative research (also known as listening to the fans at the Credit Union iplex) seem to indicate the answer is yes.
From further observation in other arenas around the WHL, however, I have concluded they hate the Brandon Wheat Kings, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Medicine Hat Tigers too.
And based on this research, I feel comfortable in assuming they also have it in for the teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Everett, Portland, Spokane and Kennewick.
So there you have it.
But is it worse for some teams than others?
Plenty has been made this year of the Broncos’ seeming inability to draw penalties.
They are second last in the league with both 207 power play opportunities and an average of 3.63 power plays per game.
Victims of some grand conspiracy? About as likely as Ryon Moser instigating a line brawl.
Somebody has to be last.
And in the long run this unique situation may be to their benefit.
The Broncos trail 10 teams in the race for the most penalty minutes this season and have been shorthanded less often than all but five other teams.
If the Broncos (or any team, for that matter) were really being targeted by the officials, a hyper-strict and literal interpretation of the rulebook would make it easy to put them in the penalty box a dozen times a night.
Call it a conservative estimate on the number of (mostly) nitpicky fouls on either side that are not penalized in a given game.
In the name of effective game management, teams across the country get away with a lot and Swift Current is no different.
The single biggest reason the Broncos do not get more calls going their way is just that — their size.
They’re one of the WHL’s biggest teams this season and the obstruction fouls that might legitimately drop
a smaller player like Saskatoon’s Shane McColgan or Regina’s Morgan Klimchuk to the ice simply do not impact an Adam Lowry or Chance Lund or Daniel Dale in the same way.
Rightly or wrongly, obstruction often needs to cause more than merely a slight inconvenience before it is called. No advantage gained, no penalty.
(Repeat after me – game management, game management, game management … )
Since the big not-so-bad Broncos have thankfully shown no interest in embellishment, it stands to reason that they will get fewer calls in their favour than many of their counterparts.
Just ask the Calgary Hitmen – another of the WHL’s biggest teams – who have been shorthanded a league-worst 64 more times than they have been on the power play.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are also among the league’s Goliaths and hold a negative 19 differential in that category.
(The one notable exception here is the Portland Winterhawks who have had 49 more power plays than penalty kills but they are the exception, not the rule. Swift Current is minus-18.)
So credit Swift Current coach Mark Lamb for both preaching discipline and devising effective special teams strategies to neutralize this disadvantage.
The Broncos’ power play is third in the league at 22.7 per cent efficiency and the penalty kill is fourth at 84.4 per cent along with 11 shorthanded goals.
And don’t be too shocked if this perceived disadvantage makes Swift Current the surprise
team of the playoffs.
Tradition has it that penalties are fewer come playoff time.
When the whistles predictably sign long-term leases with their owners’ pockets, teams conditioned to expect a power play every time someone looks at them the wrong way will be in for a rude awakening.
Having played something more closely resembling playoff hockey for most of the season, teams such as Swift Current, Red Deer and Tri-City will already be well-adjusted.

Read 784 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 09:32