The biggest story to come out of the preseason so far has nothing to do with any specific player, injury, or prospect but instead has come from the league itself. In the games played thus there has been a comical increase in the amount of penalties called; specifically slashing and faceoff violations.
Let's use the Oilers home game against the Flames on Monday night as an example, 17 penalties were called during that game with 7 of those being slashing calls. The message is clear: the NHL is telling the players that slashing, in all forms is not going to be tolerated this season. Of course this has started a conversation that is echoing around the entire league...
Is this the end of the playing careers of Getzlaf and Kesler?
Jokes aside, up to this point the league has grown lethargic when it comes to slashing. A Connor McDavid can streak down the ice and beat a defender so that defender responds by whacking at McDavid's hands with his stick to try and stop him. By all definitions that is a penalty yet we saw it time and time again last season. It was so bad that some players received serious and long term injuries resulting from such players. Gaudreau missed games earlier in the season and I don't think I need to remind people of the Methot injury.
There has been some arguments from these calls with some suggesting that continuing to call things like this will destroy the pace of the game and that the refs are taking the game into their own hands. There is an easy response to both.
In regards to destroying the pace of the game what people tend to forget is that hockey players are actually pretty smart people (at least in regards to the game they play). After the 05 lockout the NHL made the decision to adhere stricter to the rule book and penalties went up. As the season went on penalties started to go down because the players figured out what was going to get called. If the refs start calling penalties for these hand slashing calls... guess what players are going to stop doing?
As far as those who think this is the refs taking the game into their own hands... that is exactly what the refs are doing every time they choose to not blow the whistle on what should be a call. I'm going to try to be sour grapes here but the Ducks and Oilers series... heck the Ducks and anyone series involved Anaheim getting away with a ridiculous amount of calls. It shows how far off the rails we have gone when we look at how they play and instead of saying "they take plenty of penalties," we say "the Ducks are a chippy and physical team."
Will this continue throughout the season? That will be the story to follow during the first 20 games of the regular season. The NHL has underwhelmed me time and time again on how they chose to obey their own rules and this could be another of those times.
However if they adhere to this we should see an increase in scoring and more important being able to watch the elite players of this game play without additional restrictions which as a fan would be a welcome change.
Thanks for reading!