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Penalties Are Way Down In The NHL As Refs Swallow Their Whistles


Whether we like it or not, referees are a huge part of a hockey game. Just like holding in football, they can call a penalty just about any time if they really wanted to. So how do refs decide when to call one?

Some people call hockey games “organized chaos”, meaning that it’s just a bunch of guys fighting over a puck – the refs just make sure they “sort of” play within a set of rules, for the most part.

I used to think that if it was a penalty, you call it. That if the NHL wanted to REALLY get back to the non-obstruction of the post-lockout seasons then call every single instance of hooking, holding, and otherwise obstruction of players.

Some would argue that would slow the game game way too much. The counter argument is that players would adapt, realizing they’re going to get called, and play much cleaner.

I really don’t know any more. They can’t call penalties on everything but they could certainly make it a more wide open game if they cracked down a bit more. 300w" sizes="(max-width: 450px) 100vw, 450px" />

Nah, not a penalty.

In any case, there are some stats that the number of penalties is WAY down this year.

A post over at has some interesting stats about this.:

In the season after the lockout, the number of powerplays skyrocketed to 11.7 powerplay opportunities per game as players adjusted to the new rule. This season, power plays are, as the alarming headline read, at a “three-decade low.

The post also puts together some stat projections for the 2011-2012 season: 300w" sizes="(max-width: 448px) 100vw, 448px" />

A similar post over at the Edmonton Journal rants about the drop in power plays chances. He waded through a bunch of data and found that:

…on both sides of the puck, powerplays both for and against, revealing that total PP’s for both teams had plummeted from 8.0 per game in the first 20% of Oilers games to just 4.7 per game in the most recent 20%.

This is huge and something is rotten in Denmark. Is the league purposely reverting back to the “Dead Puck Era”, going back on what they said they wanted to do after the 2004-2005 lockout season? Or is it simply that the league is lazy and inept and has allowed referees to call whatever they want?

Some have theorized that the obstruction is designed to purposely slow the game down that way the skill players don’t get hurt. But, if the skill players can’t operate freely without being obstructed, what’s the point?

In any case, it seems clear the the NHL in trending towards less penalties and more obstruction. And I don’t like it.

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