If I Could Be Serious For a Minute...How to Clean up the NHL
The NHL has taken great strides this season to eliminate illegal hits.
No seriously though, the NHL is right on top of this. That's why only 4 players were killed in the first round of the playoffs alone. By comparison, 53 people were killed in the LA riots of 1992, making this the least violent Stanley Cup run the Kings have ever been involved in*.
Anyway, as I watched the Blackhawks bow out of the playoffs after losing one of their best players to an illegal hit by a known jagoff, I was extremely angry. How the hell could the NHL tolerate the existence of a guy a like Raffi Torres. But after settling down, I find it's tough for me to sympathize with the Blackhawks, considering they recently tendered a contract extension to a player whose last act of the 2011-12 season was to tender a hit so illegal he managed to claim himself as collateral damage.
And that's the problem. The NHL can suspend guys like Torres, and Carcillo and Cooke all they want, but as long as these chuckleheads can skate and chew gum at the same time, some general manager out there is going to take a flyer on them. You can recite the GM talking points from memory at this point "Dan/Matt/Raffi is great. He plays with an edge. As long he stays in control he'll be a real asset to this team".
So, the key is, these players have to be made unattractive to General Managers. Suspensions and fines have proven useless - they aren't serving as any kind of deterrent (Carcillo is exhibit A here, as the Hawks have now twice signed him knowing he'll start the season while serving a suspension) to players or management. But luckily, I'm willing to lend my geniusness to the NHL for a few moments, and I've come up with a plan. A brilliant plan that will punish teams for signing asshats, and make the NHL offseason more interesting as a bonus.
So here it goes: between the end of the Stanley Cup Finals and the beginning of the free agent period, Brendan Shanahan and his merry men will pour over the disciplinary records for the previous year. They will assess every fine, every suspension, every major penalty and identify the NHL's worst offenders from that season. Then, at noon on June 30th they will publish the Shit List of players. For the entire following season, the players on this list will face a unique punishment: every time one of them takes a minor penalty, be it for charging, or tripping or delay of game, said player will serve a 3 minute, non-releasable penalty.
There will be a few other ground rules of course. Any player on the Shit List is subject to this penalty until the end of that season's playoffs. Players may be placed on the list at any time throughout the season at the discretion of whoever in the NHL offices has any. Which could pose problems for coaches, because while teams may have multiple Shit List players on their roster, they can only dress one per game.
And how does this make the offseason more interesting? Well, timing the announcement of the Shit Listed players to be the day before free agency opens isn't a coincidence. The NHL would need to make this a huge production. Imagine a free agent Raffi Torres and his agent sweating it out the green room while waiting to find out if he's going to be rich(er) or have to find a way to survive on the league minimum. Mario Lemieux and Matt Cooke sitting up front to find out if that big extension is going to be worth it. Or some borderline case who took a few boarding penalties wondering if the NHL Wheel-O-Justice is going to drop the hammer on him for it. It'll be terrific theater.
Well, it'll be better than this, at least.
*Yes, I know, the Kings went to the Finals in the 92-93 season so shut up.