As an initial disclaimer I want to make clear that the following discussion is not meant in anyway to justify or absolve the rampant penalties the Caps have been taking this season. This is a thought I have been toying with since the end of last season and I just want to put it to a public forum.
NHL hockey is probably the most difficult sport to officiate considering the speed of the game, the amount of action going on all over the place, and the continuity of the play. However, that does not serve as an excuse for the officials to do an inadequate job. Now, I don't think it is possible to have a 100% objective standard for calling penalties, especially in the post-lockout NHL. Therefore, I believe, and I think most fans would agree, the most we can ask for, and demand, is consistency from the officials. It is infuriating to see changing standards for HHT penalties within a game. It is equally frustrating to see two players get tied up in the corner, one player goes down, and the referee at center ice calls a penalty when the closer referee calls nothing (see Caps v. Phi last season).
My suggestion is not for more instruction from the NHL head office (although that may help). My suggestion is that all referees be paired into teams that will work together through the course of the season. NFL, NBA, and MLB all do that and arguably all of these sports require less communication and implicit understanding among crew members. NFL and MLB officials have regular breaks where they can get together and discuss the call. That is simply not an option in the NHL. The officials need to know the tendencies of their partners, need to know how the other official calls games and know under what circumstances the backside official should be making a call. All too often it seems as each referee is officiating the game on their own, increasing the inconsistency and disjunction between calls each game.
I think that pairing refs into teams would allow them to develop better communication and nuanced understanding of each other's tendencies, thus resulting in more consistent officiating. I don't think this has to be done with linesmen simply because the calls they make are less subjective, and have less of an impact on a game (a bad icing call is not the same as taking a player off the ice). This solution seems so simple that I can't believe the NHL has not implemented it (or maybe that is why they haven't implemented it), but maybe I'm just missing something. What say you, Pass or Fail on paired referee teams?