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NHL's Embarrassing Zero Tolerance Policy

The NHL had a high profile push to increase goal scoring during 2005-2006 season by setting new standards for penalties and since that season, the league has seen penalties and goal scoring decrease.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Why are the Penguins not getting power plays?

That has been the talk of many post-game commentaries that can be found on Twitter, blogs, columns, and game recaps, even yours truly got sucked into immediately thinking the officials were back to hating Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

Don't listen to the criticism ripping you for thinking the league has a problem with the Penguins and Crosby. It is real, one on-ice NHL official went as far to say Crosby's approach rubs them the wrong way and is why veteran referees gave Crosby a hard time during his rookie year.

We're talking about humans but to label this as some sort of conspiracy against Crosby and the Penguins is lunacy.

The NHL has a dirty secret that is happening in every city.

Why do fans feel their teams are being screwed by the referees?

Did you forget this classic video by the NHL prior to the start of the 2005-2006 season?

It features Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom explaining how the NHL has a new standard for rules enforcement. The league went as far as stating it was a zero tolerance policy on obstruction in an effort to increase goal scoring.

During the lockout that eliminated the 2004-2005 season, there was plenty of talk about how to fix the financial state of the league but one key element of getting fans to come back was changing the game on the ice.

Scoring was down and the league needed to get back to being an entertainment product.

The full season (2003-2004) prior to the lockout averaged 9.9 minor penalties and 5.14 goals per game, those averages jumped to 12.75 minors and 6.16 goals per game during the first season (2005-2006) after the lockout.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone watching hockey over the last 25 years the standard is worse now than it was prior to the lockout. As the information below shows for this season, games have 2 penalties less per game than before the lockout and 5 less during the 2005-2006.

Minor Penalties per Game

2003-2004: 9.90

2005-2006: 12.75

2013-2014: 7.39

2014-2015: 7.62

It is a shame talented players have less time and space to produce goals because this era of hockey has some great players to put fans on the edge of their seats with every shift but the old guard in hockey slowly won back their grinding ways.

This is why it should come as no surprise goal scoring is down significantly since the 2005-2006 season.

Total Goals per Game

2003-2004: 5.14

2005-2006: 6.16

2013-2014: 5.34

2014-2015: 5.32

The NHL had 47 players score 30 or more goals during the 2005-2006 season, just 21 last season.

There were seven players with 100 or more points during each of the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. There's been just 12 over the last 6 full seasons. There hasn't been more than one in a season since 2009-2010.

100 point goal scorers

2005-2006: 7

2006-2007: 7

2007-2008: 2

2008-2009: 3

2009-2010: 4

2010-2011: 1

2011-2012: 1

2012-2013: 0 (half season)

2013-2014: 1

But why would the NHL think it is good business to dump their zero tolerance on hooking, holding, tripping, slashing, cross-checking, and interference penalties?

What's the point of continuing to have the red line removed, keeping the trapezoid, and increasing the defensive zone, if penalties aren't being called in order to uphold a certain level of entertainment.

It really shouldn't surprise you when the two things are at the root of this problem have plagued the NHL since inception of the league. Those in control want "Old Time Hockey" and most importantly, more money.

That's your conspiracy.

Next time you read the same old tired narratives about officiating not being a problem, remember the league wants a water downed product in order to create parity across the league. The more fans think their team is in a playoff race, the higher the ratings, the more fans show up at the arenas to spend their money on tickets and merchandise.