Monday, September 22, 2008

Here comes another crackdown

In addition to downsizing goaltending equipment and mandating more offensive-zone faceoffs, particularly on the power play, the NHL is emphasizing yet another obstruction-type crackdown this season.

Well, no, not really. But the league's brass has seen the recent trend in goal scoring and would love to have things the way they were in 2005-06, the first year after the lockout: more goals, more penalties, more positive press about "free-flowing" hockey.

Being targeted this season are using your hands to impede players and pinning players up against the boards. "There won't be grappling," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle says.

Obstruction, in other words.

The crackdown has started already, in preseason, as there were 21 minor penalties called in the Senators-Rangers game on Saturday, something we're likely to see in the regular season's early going. That game had 19 power plays in it (the Lightning-Penguins game had 13), which is far higher than last season's average of about 8.5 per game.

Goal scoring went way down last season, specifically in the Western Conference, where games were in the 5.2 goals per game range over the last half of the season and trending downward. Seven of the top eight goal scoring teams in the league were in the East last season, but it was the West that had the stronger teams.

I think that's something that will lead more clubs to turn toward defensive hockey going forward. I'll have a post on East vs. West in the near future.



At 2:48 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Jeremy said...

I'm glad you put "free-flowing" in quotation marks. There's nothing that wrecks the flow of the game more than penalties every other minute. 21 in that pre-season game? What a joke.

At 3:21 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Well said Jeremy. Coming soon to an arena near you, its gonna be 'half court' hockey, with few even strength opportunities for games to have ANY flow!
2) We're fine with goalie equipt restrictions. We'd go even further with that, but the silly no-tolerance crap ruins games!

At 4:31 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger HockeyTownTodd said...

AND still nothing done about head shots or the gladiator equipment worn beneath the sweaters.

At 4:44 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Stan the Caddy said...

Being targeted this season are using your hands to impede players and pinning players up against the boards.

That's funny. My entire hockey life I was told that was a good defensive play.

The problem I have with this, is that a lot of times a checking player will "wrap up" the puck carrier along the boards when the puck carrier quickly turns his back, thus protecting the puck carrier from serious injury; but also allowing the defensive player to make a quality defensive play.

Now, young players are taught never to wrap up and to follow through with all checks. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see dangerous hits-from-behind increase with this new interpretation.

ps. I cheer for good defense.

At 5:28 p.m., September 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps. I cheer for good defense.

Nobody else does.

At 5:50 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

So what you're saying is we can expect more hooking calls for sticks that inadvertantly come up past the knee during a puck battle? Oh happy day.

At 5:52 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Dan, Jr. said...

Wrong again anonymous. I cheer for any good play, offensive or defensive. Defense is very important, so it should be rewarded too.

Why do they insist on screwing with things that aren't that bad, while not doing much about things that do need fixing?

At 5:58 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I cheer for good defensive hockey. But I find wrestling matches to be boring. Nothing ticked me off more than going to a game and seeing a player hauled down on a partial breakaway in the last minute, with no call because "you have to let the players decide the game".

Dumping the puck off of the glass and out used to be described as a good defensive play, too. Now it's a risky one - and I don't miss it. I don't understand how shooting the puck over the glass got to be a sacred part of hockey.

The same applies to obstruction. It's only a good hockey move because you can get away with it. But if you can't wrap a player up without grabbing him with your hands, why should it be allowed?

There is a difference between taking a player into the boards and holding him there, and as long as referees still see that difference I'll always cheer for a crackdown. Players and coaches will learn to adjust.

At 6:14 p.m., September 22, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

Someone needs to tell the NHL that nobody actually wants to see 50 powerplays a game. The NHL's blind devotion to the thought that increasing scoring will make the game suddenly more popular in the states has been disproven so many times I've lost count.

And if the NHL is going to manufacture more offense by forcing the referees to call hundreds of non-penalties like it did in 2005-06, they are going to find that the game is WORSE not BETTER, and that the same complaints we heard three years ago will continue today.

At 7:09 p.m., September 22, 2008, Anonymous voline said...

I'm ok with the crackdowns on obstruction. The players will adjust, learn where the line is being drawn and the number of powerplays will go back down. The game will be better for it.

The goalie equipment is out of hand though. Jim Kelly had a good article about it last week.

Compare the photos of Ken Dryden and Rick DiPietro. I'm all for keeping the goalies safe, but look at the size difference in their trappers! You can't tell me that a catching mitt the size of a hupcap is protective. And with modern materials you should be able to make a chest-protector that's effective and doesn't inflate the goalie like the Michelin man.

At 7:31 p.m., September 22, 2008, Blogger Doc Nagel said...

When is a penalty not a penalty? It makes no sense to me to "let 'em play" when "letting 'em play" really means "stop 'em from skating." Obstruction is a penalty. Interference is a penalty.

But of course, the wretched defensive systems will adjust, hockey will come to a halt again, and get boring again.

At 9:06 p.m., September 22, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

When is a penalty not a penalty? It makes no sense to me to "let 'em play" when "letting 'em play" really means "stop 'em from skating."

Except, of course, for all of those hooking penalties where a stick blade barely brushes the hands of an opponent, not even impacting his ability to make a play.

Or how about the sharp increase in diving that occurs every single time the NHL cracks down on obstruction?

NHL officiating has always been a pendulum, swinging from extreme to extreme. Neither extreme is what fans want to see or pay for.

At 9:17 a.m., September 23, 2008, Blogger Bruce Ciskie said...

The problem here isn't that the officials call a bunch of stuff.

It's that the players don't believe that the officials will stick to the mandate all season. Evidence suggests the officials won't, so the players don't bother adjusting.

In the end, they end up getting away with most of the same crap that they always get away with, and most of the time it gets branded as "good defensive playoff hockey".

At 11:59 a.m., September 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm A-Ok with a crackdown... if there are 30 PP's per night, it's because the players aren't adjusting... & after a few games, they will adjust, & the # of PP's will drop significantly.

Meanwhile, the action will become faster & less clutch & grab will be evident.



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