Does it seem like the NHL is drifting back to the old days when prior to the lockout, hooking and holding penalty calls were few and far between? Your perception is correct. James Mirtle, with help from "Behind the Net" put together some interesting penalty stats in this recent report. If you look at this first chart, you can see that total hooking penalties called went from about 1600 in 2003-04, (pre-lockout), to over 4500 in 2005-06, the first year after the lockout. That number declined to about 3500 last year and is currently on pace to finish at less than 3000 this year. That's over a 30% decrease. Other obstruction related penalties like holding and tripping, declined as well.
What's even more alarming is that according to this chart, fewer total penalties are being called per game this year, than in any year up to 5 years prior to the lockout. What happened to the new NHL? What happened to allowing the speed and skill of the players to flourish? Instead of evolving, we are watching the league revert to it's previous ways, right before our eyes. No wonder the successful teams in the league are beefing up like Anaheim did in 2007, rather than slimming down like Carolina did 2006. Hopefully, the refs don't go to swallowing their whistles altogether.
Speaking of refs and fewer penalties being called, it seems to me that might be a good reason to ask for the league to go back to having just one ref on the ice. At least there should be more consistency in the calls. We wonder why the players are confused as to what is a penalty, and what isn't? Mirtle also aptly points out the rise in diving calls, as some players probably feel the need to fall when they are being hooked, to make sure they get a call. If refs would be more consistent, players might not feel the need to take a dive. Interesting report!
In other brief news, Ottawa's Ray Emery is at it again. The Sens backup goalie, (behind ex-Cane Martin Gerber) has been in and out of trouble all year for various reasons. He was late for practice again earlier this week, and was fined one day's salary of about $14,700. He overslept and missed a practice about a month ago. It's been reported that Emery has requested a trade, but who wants this locker-room cancer? Good luck in dumping that 2.75 million dollar salary this year as well as his 3.5 million guaranteed for next! Besides the fact that he's not as good as he thinks he is. If I was a GM, I would say, thanks but no thanks.
Just one last word about the article that Ken Campbell from the Hockey News posted which kind of dragged the Hurricanes media staff through the mud. Mike Sundheim of the Canes posted his side of the story, and as I speculated he had valid reasons for ending all interviews when he did. The Hockey News retracted most of the original story and hopefully all's well that ends well with that. Maybe Ray Whitney would prefer to give Canes Country the exclusive rights to the "Funniest Man in Hockey" story!
The Maple Leafs are in town to take on the Canes tonight and I'll have my normal pre-game hype up after lunch. Ciao!