So it seems like the instigator appears to be the hot button again with Kuklas Korner and James Mirtle lending some cyber space to the polarizing topic recently. Apparently, Eric Lindros has been visting teams and doing in-game interviews in which he has been bringing up NHLPA topics, most notably (to me anyways) the removal of the instigator.
Now I won't even go into some rant about how entirely removing the instigator would be great for the game... it isn't going to happen.
The best hockey fans, well that is the 95% of hockey fans that enjoy on-ice policing of the game, can hope for is some increase in the number of games before a player gets a suspension. And if that tickles your hiney, don't get so excited. Only a handful of players hit that magic mark of three last year, most notably Ben Eager. And while Eric Godard recently picked up his third (and had his suspension lifted by the NHL - my God!), it just doesn't happen too often these days that you should get excited about an increase in instigators before a suspension.
Now, what should the NHL really do to meet halfway? They should toss out the extra ten minute misconduct that accompanies an instigator. That way players only get a seven minute package rather than putting their team one player short for almost an entire period. They should also remove the game misconduct that accompanies a second instigator in a game. Finally, the horrid rule of an automatic suspension to the player and coach (plus a fine to the coach) for an instigator in the final five minutes of a game should be removed.
One notion as to why none of this will happen was voiced over at Kuklas. Basically they stated that the NHL wants to avoid ugly brawl that will delay a game and put the NHL is a negative light. Question - what are these cheap hits doing for the NHL that any different? Another question - have Collie and Gary's suspensions, you know... the ones that were never run by anyone before being implemented, really detering cheap hits this year? Half of the Philadelphia Flyers think not.
Then there are the pesimists that say it will never happen. Well, me thinks it might. I personally chatted with Ted Leonsis about it last year and he said the Board of Governors was very close to voting through the bumping up of games before a suspension was given. He said he voted in favor of modifying the rule himself. So we shall see. It doesn't appear to be on the radar this go around; but I am thinking we might see some talk happen in February.
And to the 5% of hockey fans that cover your eyes when a fight breaks out, relax. Modifying the instigator rule isn't going to send the NHL into thugdem. The enforcer that jumps a turtling yapper will still put his team at a man disadvantage for seven minutes. And in today's game, that usually spells a goal or two you just put your team down. It's too fine a line to walk for some players to do such a thing as they might find a one-way ticket to the AHL on their locker if they choose to deter with their knuckles.
One thing is for sure though, cheap hits are happening more and more these days. Maybe it's the new Reebok jerseys that are making players faster (8% apparently) and players can't pull up in time. Maybe it's a lack of respect amongst players. A GM even said that players were tight knit coming out of the lockout... not so much anymore. Whatever it is, the current system isn't working.
Time to make a rule change for another three years and see what happens. One things for sure, 95% of hockey fans will be a lot happier. And I'd bet the farm the NHL would bring in some new fans and start filling seats when things start to heat up between teams (man it was empty in Washington and on the Island last night).
And dare I say a rivalry might brew? It's been a long time since Detroit/Colorado. Wait a second, that started with a cheap hit... and oh yeah, the players took it upon themselves to straighten it out. Fans hated watching those fierce battles. Patrick Roy versus Chris Osgood? Darren McCarty versus Claude Lemieux? Oh terrible! Yeah right...