Last year, the NHL had an epidemic. Players were getting slashed, breaking hands, and losing fingers. Something needed to be done differently, but I don’t think anyone expected the change to be done to this extreme.
As the preseason went into full swing last night we saw a complete shift by NHL officials from one side of the spectrum to the other, specifically in regards to slashing minors. Here’s the game by game breakdown of penalties from last night.
Calgary vs Edmonton – 17 minors (7 slashing)
Edmonton vs Calgary – 15 minors (6 slashing)
Carolina vs Buffalo – 10 minors (4 slashing)
Montreal vs Boston – 12 minors (7 slashing)
Islanders vs Rangers – 15 minors (8 slashing)
Washington vs New Jersey – 14 minors (6 slashing)
Toronto vs Ottawa – 11 minors (5 slashing)
Minnesota vs Winnipeg – 17 powerplays (5 slashing)
Those are utterly insane numbers. This wasn’t a one-day coincidence either, the previous 3 exhibition games that have taken place over the past 2 days featured a combined 15 slashing minors.
The NHL didn’t create a new rule either. This was more or less a decision by the league to just actually call a rule that already exists. I dug up the rulebook definition just for reference:
Last night we saw average 13.875 penalties with an average of 6 of those being slashing minors. Compare that to last year where there was only an average of 0.6 slashing calls per game. So has the league officially shifted too far one way? Or is this the new standard that players will have to adjust to?
If the NHL does keep up this officiating how long would it take the players to adjust? Or could we be looking at 20-30 PIM’s a night for the first half of the season?
Of course, there are plenty of positives that will come from this. The talk for a while has been that the league needs more scoring, so maybe this is how you can accomplish that. Not only would more power plays create offense, but removing a defenders ability to hack their opponents hands will allow skilled players to create more chances (ya know, since they don’t
need to be worried about losing a finger).
Also, the risk of injury especially to star players will drop significantly once players learn they can’t hack their opponents like they’re taking down a tree.
My only concern with this is that the league and its officials won’t be able to stay this consistent, especially once the games matter more. We just went through a postseason that saw the officials light the rulebook on fire, so when April rolls around this year, are slashing infractions going to go mainly uncalled like they did last year?
My point of view, and I’m sure most who watch the game share this perspective, is that officials should use the same set of eyes for the entire game and no matter what time of the year that game is played. If it’s a penalty in the first period of game 36, then it should be a penalty in the 3rd period of the Conference Finals. That simple.
Let’s hope the league finally gets this one right.