Tuesday, February 20, 2007


NHL: Is the 'New' Standard Starting to Erode?

by Jes

It happens most every season without fail: The refs crack down hard on obstruction early in the season, and then let up later in the season, claiming the 'players are adjusting'.

Last season, such adjustment was not so pronounced, but now the media and some fans are starting to wonder if we're slowly, and surely, crawling back to the 'dark ages' of hooking, holding, and water skiing.

From John MacKinnon, The Edmonton Journal:
Wasn't the crackdown on obstruction supposed to let the speed and skill flow freely in the New NHL? As a byproduct, it cut fighting almost in half last season. This year, turning the tough guy loose is re-emerging as the way to provide some space for the skill players, just like the good old days.

Much has been made of the liberties taken with the league-leading scorer, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. But, curiously, Penguins GM Ray Shero is not among the posse who want to change the instigator rule.
While Sidney Crosby does get a lot of attention, he also brings a lot on himself by the style he plays. I can't say he gets an undue amount of 'love' from the likes of Derian Hatcher.

At least one head coach, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, sounded alarm bells during the all-star break about what he perceives as the rising level of unpenalized obstruction fouls. Rather than echo his concern, other coaches have voiced the view that so-called "soft penalties" be overlooked, or at least called less rigorously. Tilting back in the direction of the old-fashioned situation ethics of the past, in other words.

This is not something I've watched closely over the past few months, but I have noticed that a few 'borderline' incidents are not being called as penalties, while they likely would have been last season.

Are we crawling back to the dark ages? I'd like some of your thoughts and maybe somebody has some numbers to suggest, one way or another, what the standard of obstruction really is. I hate chinsy penalties, but I'd also hate to see a return to the good times for the sloths like Derian Hatcher and Brendan Witt.

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