The replay shows that this was a pretty clean, shoulder to shoulder hit. The hit did take place that magical 6 to 10 foot range from the boards in which anyone going down will fall hard, and it will probably draw a boarding call.
What is disgusting is that Kopitar stayed down, and it appears the longer he stayed down, the more the referee felt he needed to make this a major penalty. Then, of course, Kopitar managed to skate just fine on the ensuing 5 minute major. This is incredibly reminiscent of Coach Gordon Bombay teaching the Mighty Ducks how to cheat with the mantra "Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant."
The Wild were victims of another poor ejection decision earlier this season against the Calgary Flames. In this clip Jerome Iginlia "used his influence" (to paraphrase Michael Russo) to get a headbutt call that never happened against Nick Johnson (head to the shoulder at :36 doesn't count). Johnson also got a major and a game misconduct.
I believe the time has come for the NHL to at least fine players that try to deceive referees.
I think the league is hesitant to take any action that is seen as undermining referees. However, in the recent case of Mark Fistric, the NHL did (rightfully) offer supplemental discipline on a play that had no penalty called on the ice. So my idea to fine (and maybe suspend repeat offenders) players for instances with no penalty recorded is not without some precedent.
Players who dive (rightfully) assume they are in the clear if their deception works on a referee. Once they fool the ref, nothing is going to happen to them. (UPDATE: See bottom of post, apparently rules for supplemental discipline for diving do exist, just not often enforced.)
If supplemental discipline were involved, players would have to realize their fakery will not only have to trick a referee at full speed, but fool the Department of Player Safety as well, which has the benefit of instant replay, countless angles and considerably more time to make a call. That seems like a far better way to deal with the league's divers than putting all the pressure on game officials, as seems to be the case right now.
If players were up against the scrutiny of replay, I think instances like this would disappear real quick, and referees would have one less thing to worry about catching. Referee's are already hesitant to call embellishment because when they make a mistake it's pretty darn glaring. If the league puts this pressure under the Department of Player safety instead of on referees, hopefully the already difficult job of being a referee would become just a bit easier.
UPDATE: While looking for stories to see if any players have actually been fined or suspended for diving, I stumbled on the NHL's rulebook where it appears rules regarding fines and suspensions exist under Rule 64 - embellishment.
"The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.)"However, this same search turned up only a Sean Avery incident from 2005 as an example of a fine for diving ever being made public (I didn't go too deep in the results, but if you know others please comment below or tweet me @SOTSOHockey). So this means either a) it's happening but not often made public, or b) (more likely) this rule has gone the way of "crease violations" (the cousin of the NBA's travelling rule), in that it is rarely enforced.
So lets just say I would be for removing the warning letter stage and start with the fine after the first incident. At the very least, the NHL should make public the players it warns, I think that threat of shame might just bet good enough to curtail the manipulation of game officials.
I also would be in favor of stiffening the fine to something like $5000 for first offenses.
Either way, I don't think the NHL is using this section of the rulebook nearly enough. At the very least I for one would like to know if Iginla or Kopitar at least received/will receive the warning letters specified.
What do you think?