Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Hate the Stupid Instigator Rule

In case the subtlety of the title went over your head, I hate the instigator rule. I didn't think of it when writing my list of what's wrong with the NHL, but it is decidedly wrong. I get the idea of the rule I suppose, but I don't really get the way it's called at all. If Player A goes after Player B to fight and Player B isn't interested for whatever reason - he's at the end of a shift and tired, he's not really a fighter, he's nursing a hand injury - and Player A throws a punch anyway, okay sure, slap Player A with an instigator. But that's not what happens. I can't recall that ever being called. Instigators seemed to be used in one of two situations:

Player A shoves, bumps, chops and swings at Player B. Player B decides he's had enough and goes after Player A. Player B gets the penalty. Does he deserve a penalty? Sure, he probably does. But Player A does too and Player B didn't really instigate anything, did he?

Player A hits Player B in a cheap and/or dangerous way. Player B falls to the ice. Player C charges in and pounds Player A about the ears a bit for hitting his teammate in a manner that wasn't cool. Player A, the guy who started the situation, gets a minor penalty. Player C, the guy who was protecting his teammate, gets a 2 minute minor, a 5 minute fighting, and often a 10 minute game misconduct. This is kinda sorta what happened in the Ovechkin-Briere situation earlier this season although in that case, Ovechkin did atleast get a game misconduct as well. When all the dust settled however it was the Sabres - not the team who made the initial, very questionable hit - who ended up more short-handed for a longer period of time. Paul Gaustad did exactly what the NHL Code says he, as one of the bigger, more physical guys on the ice, should do. He protected his smaller, more skilled teammate. Good for him. But does the possibility of being off the ice for 17 scare some guys from doing that? If a guy is sitting at two instigator penalties does he think twice about protecting his teammate knowing that a third instigator carries a 3 game suspension?

To me the instigator penalty is the league telling the players, "We don't want you to police yourselves." Which would be fine if the league showed any ability to police the game in some kind of fair and consistent manner. Unfortunately, Colin Campbell is all over the place when it comes to fines and suspensions for hits and other actions during games - one guy gets away with a slap on the wrist after a ridiculous offense, one guy gets a suspension that really does line up with his actions, the next guy gets an absurd suspension for something that wasn't really that big of a deal. If you want to police the game, then do it and do it right. As it is now, fans, coaches, and players know that once an offense goes to the official people, it's going to be mishandled 99% of the time.

And that leads to my biggest beef with the instigator. If the league is going to discourage players from taking care of things on the ice while turning a blind eye to bad hits, players are going to push and push the boundaries and it's just a matter of time before we're all watching a Bertuzzi/Moore or Orpik/Cole situation again. I think most of us can agree that that's something that should be avoided at all costs.

I'm kind of out of it right now so I hope this is somewhat coherent.


Jocelynn said...

It was very coherent, Heather, and cleared some things up for me about that rule, which I have always found baffling.

Paige said...

I don't think Gaustad deserved that penalty against him, this is such a confusing and pointless rule. The Goose should be proud of what he did, standing up for the tini tiny Danny. that is why we all miss him so. I pray we don't get and MORE injuries tonight vs. the Broad St. Bullies!

Heather B. said...

Paige! I just got home from my second job to learn that Daniel Paille broken his finger?! What the?!?! God hates us!

On a more positive note, I'm very sorry I missed Andrew Peters' goal. Was he absolutely thrilled?

Paige said...

He was more than thrilled. Heck, he was more than estatic. I went to the practice the game's morning and Peter's doesn't seem to do much. He talked to Millsy or a coach most of the time, then he lined up water bottles on the side of the bench and attempted to hit them down w/ the puck. After no sucess, he knocked them down with his hand.

I miss Paille already, he was becoming one of my favorites! Although, come playoff's we'll be back at full strength w/ the exception of Gaustad.