A Radical Solution To The NHL's Inconsistent Suspension Policy

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins

By Jacob Messing

In 2016-17, the NHL had its lowest numbers of suspensions since the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.

The number of suspensions, cumulative games lost, and number of NHL teams that had a player suspended were all meaningfully lower than the previous three seasons.

While there are clearly fewer suspensions than in past years, there is a belief that some of the numbers are skewed due to the NHL’s initiative to clean up the league and eliminate dangerous play.

For instance, some of you are reading this and already have a handful of incidents running through your head that failed to warrant a suspension this past season -- or even past seasons.

One such play is Capitals winger Tom Wilson’s hit from behind on Devils defenseman John Moore on December 31, which went undisciplined.

There are not many clear-cut instances that demand suspensions, but this one comes pretty close. No fan wants to see hockey eliminate body-checking, but hits from behind, such as the one above, have never been legal.

The NHL continues to insist it is erasing danger from the league, and while I’m not arguing that, there could be a better solution to further prove it.

NHL players are worth millions -- their contracts and league revenue say so. While there will always be more players waiting to step up in another’s absence, there isn’t a new Sidney Crosby waiting on the sidelines.

Though he’s one of those players who is either cherished or loathed by fans, the 30-year-old Crosby has suffered a string of concussions during his career, and his long-term health should be growing concern of the NHL’s front office.

Rather than continually handing repeat offenders -- in the true sense of the words, not the NHL’s intricate definition -- varying amounts of time off, the league should filter them out by threatening the teams that own their contracts.

Imagine if the NHL put a system in place that threatened a club’s ability to draft players or spend to the maximum level of the salary cap -- not necessarily altogether but in a way that forced the club to consider the players it signs and for how long.

Of course, every front office already takes this into account, but what if the NHL was to announce that any team with a total of five players suspended or a cumulative total of 20 games suspended in a given season is subject to forfeit its fourth-round draft pick or face a salary cap penalty of $2 million for the following season?

The details would need to be hammered out and a chart of exponentially growing penalties would likely need to be made, but it’s a start.

It would further filter out dangerous players and plays and could even act as a scapegoat for some managers to argue that a certain player is a high risk given his suspension history.

However, the opposing side would say that there are star players who are repeat offenders, but there will always be hard-nosed players who are worth the risk.

One such player is Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who has been suspended four times for 12 games during his eight-year career but has posted superstar numbers over the past two seasons. He was even able to avoid suspension after a dangerous slew-foot on Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall this past season.

Front offices would arguably take a longer look at filling out the roster with other suspension-prone players if they happen to hold an all-star who is already known to cross the line at times.

And naturally, there will always be star players who make borderline plays. But if this radical solution can help weed out fringe players and continue to decrease the short list of goons who remain in the NHL, the league will be a safer place with continually declining suspension numbers.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

5 NHL Teams That Could Use Jaromir Jagr In 2017-18

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres

By Jacob Messing

The NHL is a month and a half into free agency, and the growing trend of ageism is claiming another group of veterans.

Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr are just a few of the formidable players still searching for new contracts.

Jagr, 45, remains a force on the ice despite having his worst full season in terms of point production. Last year, he tallied 46 points; the year before, with similar ice time and games played, he reached 66 points. However, he was stuck on a surprisingly underwhelming Florida Panthers team that was dealing with a reconstructed defense, significant injuries, and front-office turmoil.

5 NHL Breakout Candidates For 2017-18

© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets

By Jacob Messing

With each new season, fans get to see breakout performances from some of the NHL’s emerging talent. These budding superstars show glimpses of the league’s future.

While some players are stuck in the developmental level of their careers -- learning hockey at its highest level -- others consistently deliver highlight-reel action every time they step onto the ice. Last season, players such as Viktor Arvidsson, Mikael Granlund, and Nikita Kucherov moved from the former category to the latter. Who could do the same this year?

Introducing The U.S. Olympic Hockey Coaching Staff

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins

By Jacob Messing

The reality of a 2018 Winter Olympics without NHL players is sinking in after the recent announcement of the U.S. men’s national team’s coaching staff.

Last week, the brass for the United States named its coaches for the upcoming international tournament, starting with Wisconsin Badgers head coach Tony Granato, who will serve in the same role for Team USA.

'Soap Hockey' Offers Slippery Alternative To Backyard Pickup Games

The Soap Hockey Project Soap Hockey

By Jacob Messing

What happens when six people try to play hockey on a soap-slicked tarp in the middle of the summertime?

Apparently, they found the answer in Sweden. It’s called “Håsjösåpan,” and it’s sweeping the internet.

No NHL, No Problem: AHL Players With Olympic Potential

© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports NHL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive

The NHL recently issued a statement to its teams that AHL players can be released for Olympic participation in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

3 NHL Teams That Are Hoping Blue Line Upgrades Lead To Offensive Spark

© Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports NHL: New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks

This summer hasn't seen the blockbusters of Taylor Hall for Adam Larson or P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, but a number of teams have completed savvy trades to land experienced, productive defensemen. These moves will prove more important on the ice than they may initially seem on paper. 

St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo Poised For Career Year

© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues unwrapped a somewhat hidden present in Alex Pietrangelo after the team traded Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline last season.

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Eastern Conference Team

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

The NHL offseason is winding down after a busy summer of high-profile free agency moves, league expansion, and entry draft selections.

Fantasy Hockey: Dark Horse Player For Each Western Conference Team

© Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports NHL: St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets

The 2017-18 fantasy hockey season is approaching fast, and since your league members are already preparing so should you.