Over the summer, the NHL discussed changing its standards on stick infractions and faceoff encroachment penalties. As we’ve seen through the first few pre-season games, these new standards are real.
While the stick infraction standard calls back to 2005-06 when the NHL came back from the lost season seeking more offence, the faceoff infraction crack down is new and is already ruffling some feathers.
On Tuesday, Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand ripped into the new faceoff standards. He didn’t play on Monday night, but watched some games and sounded off on what he saw.
“This faceoff rule’s an absolute joke,” Marchand said. “That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play this year like that. That’s brutal.”
There were 10 faceoff violation penalties on Monday night, something that was almost never called in the league before. Players taking the draw must line up properly inside the markings on the ice and can’t have their blades touching them. The team on defence lines up first, followed by the attackers.
This isn’t a brand-new rule in the book, but a new standard for it to be called by. The NHL is trying to curtail “cheating” in the faceoff circle and has previously made it illegal for players to win a draw by dropping to the ice and pulling the puck back with their hand.
Marchand noted that wingers are anxious to get in to help their centres win a draw and the centres are anxious to win it back, so issuing two-minute minors for these violations is going too far in trying to add offence to the game.
“Basically you have to be a statue, you can’t move,” he said. “It takes away from the centre iceman and I think even there was a play last night where there was a penalty given and it was 4-on-4 before the penalty even started just because of a draw. That’s just a joke.”
“Cheating” in the draw has become commonplace in the NHL over the years, and often the best faceoff men are recognized for it as a skill. It remains to be seen if the pre-season standard continues on into the regular season and, if it does go that far, if it lasts into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Wingers, too, aren’t allowed to encroach inside the faceoff circles before the draw, or cross the line on to the opposing team’s side of the ice.
“You’re also taking a lot of skill away from the centremen by limiting what they’re able to do,” Marchand continued. “Being a centreman is a skill and guys make a really good living at it.
“We may as well start throwing D in there to take draws.”