Reports started coming out today about a new rule from the league, and the immediate reaction most rational people had was that it would be dumb as hell.
Sure enough: Puck Daddy reports that the league’s general managers may now be considering a rule that would allow penalties from the end of one playoff game to carry over into another. “Breathlessly stupid” is one great way to describe it.
So let’s say, just as a for instance, that a guy takes a penalty after the final whistle of a Game 3. Under this potential new rule, his team would start Game 4 with him sitting in the box for however many minutes he picked up for his infraction. But what if a game ends with part of a guy’s penalty gone — say he’s serving a two-minute slashing minor picked up with 37 seconds left on the clock, for instance — would that carry over as well?
The point of such a rule is clear: It’s intended to cut down on the cheap garbage that often takes over games that have grown hopelessly out of reach for one team (see: most of the Philly/Pittsburgh series), and thus the league’s heart is at least in the right place. Guys can get hurt from this stuff, yes, but it also makes hockey seem like a terribly unattractive sport that probably turns off some potential advertisers and serves as an annoyance to fans and broadcast partners who don’t want to see the last five minutes reduced to an NBA-game-like crawl, so any attempts to stamp this stuff out can be seen as a good one.
But as pointed out by Wyshynski, the amount of conditions upon which these decisions would be based is considerable. Which infractions would qualify, which wouldn’t; if high sticking carries over, are all high sticks created equal or are those that draw blood counted as being worse than incidental ones that might come in the course of play where a guy misses a stick lift; when is a slash a carry-over slash, and so forth.
Brendan Shanahan said that this measure would be there to ensure that there was some amount of justice at the end of games. He can’t suspend people for slashes of middling impact, especially when intent isn’t clear, and even if he wanted to ladle out some supplementary discipline for more egregious penalties, he says the league’s maximum fine doesn’t serve as any kind of deterrent to this post-whistle, post-game bad behavior.
And so the solution, as it so often is with the NHL, is to fundamentally change the fabric of the sport. It’s remarkably stupid, and the same thing that’s caused this bit of silliness is at the root of most of the league’s rule changes, proposed and otherwise.
It goes back to the issue of the league thinking there’s something inherently wrong with the product it puts on the ice. This proposed change, like most of those made at Camp Shanny or whatever you want to call it, and the introduction of the ringette line, are all designed to do the same thing: Juice offense because goals equals good hockey in the eyes of whoever makes these decisions. (But at the same time, the league continues to not budge on the introduction of hybrid icing because it’s merely a player safety issue and would have little discernable effect on the number of goals scored in a game. And who cares about player safety, right? Not the NHL. Not really.) A carry-over penalty? Really? Let’s just call this what it is: a very transparent attempt to once again increase offense by artificially creating more power play situations. Didn’t score on the power play at the end of that last game? Well gee whiz guys why don’t you hop on out there and try ‘er again next game?
I don’t know, this just doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent to me. Even the bad PK teams in the playoffs kill about three of every four penalties their teams take, and if a guy is willing to clobber someone early in the game (see again: Pens/Flyers), then a carryover penalty won’t do much to change his mind.
The real solution is something that Shanahan touched on: Discipline just isn’t strict enough. He’s right that you can’t suspend a guy for slashing an opponent at the end of a game, but hey, you can fine the hell out of him. He’s right that a guy losing $2,500 might be worth it if he can really hurt an opponent, but that’s something that’s part of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the Players’ Association, and you can’t just change it. Oh except, wait, the collective bargaining agreement expires this summer. Whoa!
So the really cool and great way that the league could change that is easy, and doesn’t involve changing the rules for no reason: when the collective bargaining agreement expires this summer, the league should collectively bargain for a fine system that will actually serve as a deterrent. Impose fines that work with the same severity of the suspension system: Bigger penalties for worse offenses. It’s really not hard.