There's been some talk.
Jarome Iginla, who led the league in scoring last year, is having an awful time of things with four goals in his first 19 games. When he was in Atlanta last week, he said he wasn't so sure that the clutching and grabbing wasn't already coming back.
"I really like the rule change," Iginla said. "But I hope that they continue to call it as strictly as they called it at the beginning of the year. I'm not sure that it's been as tight as it was at the beginning of the year. They really made a point that they are going to keep it all year and keep it this tight, and I hope that they do.
"I don't want to get in trouble [with the officials] here. In fairness to them, they have to make an adjustment as we do as players, so it takes time."
And recently, the Pittsburgh Penguins piped up recently with claims that they had been getting manhandled in a loss to the New York Islanders.
"It was like a rodeo," Marc Bergevin said. "You see what they're calling. They were calling it one way, now they're calling it another way."
Many players who thought the crackdown wouldn't last until the end of the season were backtracking on their predictions.
"It didn't even make it until Halloween," said Pittsburgh's Ian Moran. "The first 10 games of the season were great. What should have been called was being called, and it was a great product."
In the first 20 games of the season, there were 294 penalties called. Of those, 21 were neutral-zone obstruction calls. But, keep in mind that 135 others were calls of interference, tripping, hooking and holding – all of which fall into the broad crackdown of interference-type penalties. If they occur within the offensive zones, they are not tagged with the "obstruction" label.
In the last 20 games (as of Thursday morning), there had been 233 penalties called. Of those, only 13 were obstructions, and 110 were interference, tripping, hooking and holding. The biggest dropoff was in straight interference calls, from 41 in the first 20 games of the season to 24 in the last 20 games.
Overall through the first 267 games of the season, the number of penalties assessed for restraining fouls or obstruction had increased 35 pecent from 2001-2002.
Of the 3,508 penalties called through 267 games, 49.8 percent were the result of restraining fouls or obstruction, up 11 percent from last season.
That would seem to indicate (based on a very small sampling) that there has been a dropoff in interference calls. But it hasn't affected scoring the way players would have you believe: There were 103 goals scored in the first 20 games of the season; 111 in the last 20.
Here are the two numbers that stand out to me: Obstruction calls were made in 14 of the first 20 games, but were made in only nine of the last 20. Also, only three of the first 20 games had fewer than 10 minor penalties; as opposed to seven of the last 20 games.
The NHL attributes the recent slight decline in interference calls to the adjustments made by the players, not to a lack of attention by the officials.
Mike Modano agrees.
"I think more or less the teams are starting to understand it and really trying to learn," he said. "There's a lot more skating. Players are skating with players rather than trying to hold on and slow them down.
"[I've noticed it] the odd time, maybe a little bit in the offensive zone with picks coming off faceoffs and stuff, but I think for the most part teams are starting to change the way they play."