PITTSBURGH - Perhaps you've noticed something new in the NHL recently.
There's a little bit more holding, a little more interference, a little more obstruction.
Power play opportunities are down across the league. The NHL says that's because the players have adjusted to the more stringent standards for calling obstruction penalties.
Give the league two minutes for obstruction of the truth.
When the NHL came back after a work stoppage wiped out the 2004-05 season, there was zero tolerance for obstruction.
Games were called so closely, it wasn't uncommon for each team to have six or seven power play chances per game, including some with a two-man advantage.
The players definitely adjusted to that.
The idea was to get more offense in the game. Most changes in rules or enforcement of existing rules are done with the idea of getting more offense.
People like to see the scoreboard light up.
Is it possible things have swung the other way and now the word has gone to the officials to let up a little on obstruction?
It sure looks that way. It's been a topic among players, too, although they're all reluctant to speak on the record for a couple of reasons:
1. Complaints are perceived as whining.
2. There could be retribution.
But make no mistake, the change has been noticed.
Things are not as wide open as they were pre-2004 in terms of obstructing players, but if the scale was once zero tolerance, it's probably up to three or four now.
Players will adjust to that, too, because it works both ways. A team may lose a scoring chance to a subtle hold, but it may also prevent an opponent's chance with the same tactic.
And maybe that's the problem. Now players aren't sure what will be allowed.
Even when it was steady parade to the penalty box, at least players knew. Any obstruction would be penalized.
That left a defending player with two choices: Either impede a player and take a penalty, or let that player go and hope the goaltender can stop a quality scoring chance.
Neither was especially attractive, but that's what the league had in mind.
Until the players fully grasped the level of enforcement, special teams were deciding games.
Ultimately the players figured things out.
The NHL communicates with its officials on a regular basis. Officials get DVDs of their games that have been critiqued by supervisors, and they're supposed to watch the reviews before they work their next game.
Is it possible the NHL has used the system to send the word that referees need not be so diligent in calling obstruction?
The change seems to have come during the season. Any kind of changes made on the fly can be jarring, as the NFL learned when it changed football's rules on dangerous hits during the 2010 season.
No getting Gill
Veteran defenseman Hal Gill is the one who got away as the NHL trading deadline looms on Monday, Feb. 26.
Gill is the defenseman who was part of the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2009.
He was a big part of that team because he's 6-foot-7 and weighs 250 pounds.
Gill was coming to the end of his contract with the Montreal Canadiens and also approaching his 37th birthday.
He was of little use to the Canadiens, who don't figure to make the playoffs. The expectation was they would deal him to a contender.
They did the other day, shipping Gill to Nashville for two players and a second-round draft pick.
That's a pretty steep price for a rental player, but maybe that's also an indication of how this year's trading market is going to play out.
It appears there are more buyers than sellers, which means that prices for those last-minute additions may be high.
Too bad for the Penguins, because Gill would have been a good fit.
The Penguins' defense hasn't been as good this season because of the ongoing struggles of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.
The two, Pittsburgh's shutdown pair, were recently split up by coach Dan Bylsma because they've been ineffective.
With Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen adding to the offensive part of the defensive corps, the Penguins need someone to take care of business around the front of the net.
That would have been a good spot for Gill, who has a knack for getting opponents off their game with his physical presence.
That's especially true in the playoffs, where a potential seven-game series makes match-ups even more important.
There are quality teams in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins are going to have face them if they hope to get to the Stanley Cup final.
Their chances will be enhanced by adding help to the blue line.
With Gill off the market, they'll have to keep shopping.