Shanahan's rant more about Rangers than refs
Let's just check the standings before we address Brendan Shanahan's postgame rant from Wednesday night.
Hmmm. Shanahan's New York Rangers are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference after Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (who, by the by, leapt over the Rangers into ninth place with the entertaining, physical win at Madison Square Garden).
New York Rangers
The Rangers' 10 home wins represent the second-lowest total in the NHL.
As for Shanahan, the All-Star last scored at even strength Dec. 9 and has managed just three goals in his past 16 contests (although he has scored in back-to-back games for the first time since early December).
The Rangers, like Shanahan, seem to be treading water. Not a playoff team. Not a team in decline. A team, in some ways, going nowhere, like many of the Eastern Conference's swollen, unappealing middle class.
All of which might explain Shanahan's postgame rant in which he offered a thinly veiled complaint that NHL referees routinely ignore fouls on Rangers captain and superstar Jaromir Jagr because he's a European player.
"I don't know what it is, if there's some sort of prejudice or what the deal is," Shanahan told reporters after the game. "I've never seen a superstar player treated with so much disrespect in this league as Jaromir Jagr.
"He gets mauled every game. Mats Sundin goes down in the first period and gets a penalty call. Jaromir Jagr carries players on his back all season long and doesn't get calls.
"He gets hit late, gets hit high, gets hooked on the hands. He doesn't complain. He just plays and plays and plays. The referees seem to have a different set of rules for him, not just [Wednesday night], but all season long."
Blah, blah, blah.
Reading through Shanahan's carping, we are reminded of the sound Charlie Brown's teacher used to make. If, as Shanahan has suggested, the referees turn a blind eye to fouls on Jagr because he's European (or because he used to have a bad mullet), it flies in the face of Shanahan's own experiences.
It would appear the veteran forward has a strangely short memory when it comes to international hockey diplomacy. We don't recall referees bringing such agendas to the table when Shanahan was winning three Stanley Cups in Detroit on a team populated by Russians and Swedes, and most recently, in 2002, a Czech netminder named Dominik Hasek. Or even last season, when Jagr was finishing second in NHL scoring.
Just for fun, we looked at the Rangers' power-play opportunities this season. As of Thursday morning, the Rangers ranked 18th in power-play opportunities. A season ago, when the Rangers were the darling of the NHL and headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1997, they finished 26th in power-play opportunities. Where was the prejudice Shanahan speaks of then? Where were the Rangers' cries of outrage then?
Or is it possible Shanahan's anger and frustration aren't so much about the officiating but rather the team's inability to get into a rhythm that will take it to the postseason, as most assumed would be the case this season?
Still, we're prepared to give Shanahan a break.
He is the man, after all, who helped save the game during the lockout (or did he just invent it?), and he's looking for any edge that will get his team back into the playoffs.
So, who can blame him, even if his rant makes him look churlish and out of touch? Sort of like the Rangers.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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