Late in the second period of Wednesday night's loss to Buffalo, Alex Ovechkin was spun around and down by the Sabres' Derek Roy. The call? Tripping on Roy... and diving on Ovechkin (his fourth career diving penalty). No doubt, this prompted a chorus of voices in Western New York and the D.C. metropolitan area asking the same question: "How can it be both a trip and a dive?"
The problem, however, is in the application of the diving call. Rather than being used to dissuade the embarrassing infraction that it seeks to address, the penalty seems to be used by officials to "even-up" marginal calls. If the League was serious about penalizing diving, you'd think that it would most often appear as a single infraction, one that puts the offending team on the penalty kill. But instead, what we see most often are coincidental minors (like Roy/Ovechkin) that send the exact wrong message to the diver: go ahead and embellish - you'll either get the call or, at worst, you'll be headed off with a member of the opposing team.
Putting some numbers to the observations, Gabe Desjardins over at Behind the Net looked at all of the diving calls over the past two seasons and found that 88% of them were accompanied by an off-setting penalty (most often tripping, hooking or interference). Put another way, less than one out of every eight dives that are called truly penalize the diver's team. That's a pretty staggering number.
When the NHL codified its current rule against diving, they no doubt had the best of intentions. But if they truly want to remove this shameful behavior from the game, they need to go back to the drawing board and replace what they've got with the obvious and simple solution: have a dive negate any initial infraction. You'll see a lot more players staying up on their skates, making the game easier to call... and silencing those who don't understand how there can be a trip and a dive on the same play.