The Contrarian looks into why fewer penalties are being called in the postseason…
John Steigerwald of The Indiana Gazette wrote an article called "Commentary: Maybe Crosby should just quit" on May 20, 2014. He suggests that Sidney Crosby mimic what Mario Lemieux did back after the 1996-97 season completed and announce his retirement in protest to the way the game is being officiated.
He references one of Don Cherry's "Coaches Corner" clips about how Crosby was being taken advantage of and that there were at least five non-calls in that video sample alone. Cherry as always blames it on the instigator rule but Steigerwald sidesteps that argument to focus on the perception of what we expect versus what is actually better for the game.
We are going to try and debunk some arguments but to do so here are two tables that track Penalty Minutes Per Game and Goals Per Game from the 1989-90 season to the present one (all the stats are compiled from NHL.com):
The Unadjusted columns include all penalty minutes. Adjusted takes only the minors, bench minors and the majors. I make this distinction only to highlight the penalties that could make a difference as potential power play opportunities. Misconducts do not help with potential power play time.
The first thing that we will tackle is the myth about the instigator rule and its negative impact. Here is an article from NHL.com, "Evolution of instigator penalty altered game". The rule always existed but was strengthened before the 1992-93 season in an effort to eliminate bench clearing brawls and group fighting.
In the 1991-92 regular season, there were about 10,000 penalty minutes handed out as misconducts and game misconducts (subtract the Unadjusted PIM value from the Adjusted PIM). From the 1992-93 season onward the value slowly drops, to about 3,400 misconduct minutes registered this current season. Similar conclusions are shown with the playoff season stats as well.
One of the arguments against the instigator rule was that it would lead to an increase of stick work or other minor penalties. If you look at the Adjusted PIM / GM values that doesn't hold true. The average PIM / GM value drops.
Another thing to point out is that from 1991-92 to 1992-93 there was expansion and the total number of games played went up by 208, yet the PIM / GM went down which seems counter intuitive. Also counter intuitive is the fact that there are about half as many penalties called per game now (19.09) than there were in 1991-92 (38.20) even though there are 350 more games played.
I also look at the playoff statistics here as well and the PIM / GM values drop even though there are a similar amount of games played each season.
So maybe Stei