Saturday, 21 April 2012

P.J. Stock loves the Bruins but hates actual hockey

 Once again, I couldn't disagree more with P.J. Stock.  During the post-game comments on his beloved Bruins' loss, he disagrees that the Benoit Pouliot slashing penalty should have been called.  His reasoning is that many other infractions such as those aren't called during every NHL game.  He adds that Johansson "didn't fall".  This is so ridiculous.  If Mr. Johansson had fallen, Mr. Stock would have whined that it was a 'soft' call, and accused him of diving.

The play couldn't have been more clear.  Marcus Johansson had puck possession in the offensive zone, was trying to create a scoring chance with it, when Benoit Pouliot, a full stride behind, slashed him twice on the leg/hip, to try to slow him down or make him lose puck possession.

We regularly bemoan the lack of offence in the NHL and search for ways to increase scoring.  My contention is that if only all the holding, grabbing, slashing and gooning was penalized so as to make it a rare incidence instead of prevalent, scoring would soar.  Offensively gifted players would be allowed to shine.  Players who find themselves a step behind, like Mr. Pouliot in this instance, should have no other recourse but to put their head down and skate dang hard to try to catch up.  They shouldn't be given the easy out of 'little hooks' and 'minor' slashes to rectify their positional or talent disadvantage.

Unfortunately, the NHL rulebook allows slashing, as long as it's not too much slashing.

(from the NHL Rulebook:

61.1 Slashing - Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.

This is an unnecessary and detrimental distinction.  It normalizes illegal tactics.  It makes the rule infringement a judgment call.  The bar or limit of what is tolerable tends to creep up as the pressure increases, and leads to situations where Mr. Stock can argue that due to the stakes involved, an infraction shouldn't be called.  Finally, this distinction advantages the goon/checker type of player at the expense of the talented scorers and playmakers.  Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson can play hockey without having to slash.  Scott Thornton and Greg Campbell would be of no further use to any team if this standard was applied.

Again, if I was King, or at least NHL Commissioner, the rule would state clearly that any contact of the stick with an opponent is a penalty.  Period.  Your stick may only be used to play for the puck.  Any slash or hook or trip or hold with it is an automatic two minutes.  If the play was an aggressive foul, like a slash with intent or crosscheck with purpose, it's automatically doubled.  Now Evgeni Malkin can fly up and down the ice without having to concern himself with the 'physical' side of hockey.  Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby can busy themselves with trying to score and dazzling us with their creativity, instead of being bogged down in a morass of intimidation and ending up fighting each other.

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