Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Rebranded and reborn: The new NHL

Both Tom Benjamin and Eric McErlain weighed in on the TSN report of coming changes in the NHL while I was on vacation, so I'd feel left out if I didn't chime in with my thoughts:
  • Smaller goalie equipment, including 11 inch pads.

    This change is a given, and in retrospect, should have been made years ago. One of the key questions that comes to mind for me is whether the NHL's decline in goalscoring the last decade has been due to a decrease in shots on goal or an increase in goaltenders' save percentages. While it's certainly not this black and white, it'd be interesting to know if stifling defensive play or beefed up goaltenders were the culprits for the decline.

  • The reinstitution of the tag-up offside rule.

    A good idea to increase flow in the game. I was never sure what the reasoning behind the orginal change was.

  • Moving the goal lines back two feet towards the end board to create more room in front of the net instead of behind it.

    On this front, I'll simply advise those in charge to make up your minds.

  • The calling of more penalties more consistently, specifically for obstruction on players with and without the puck and not just in the netural zone.

    Another no-brainer. The main qualm I have with previous obstruction crackdowns (aside from their relative ineffectiveness) is that games are transformed into ridiculous powerplay contests. The only way this can truly be avoided, unfortunately, is by players curbing the infractions they commit.

  • The institution of a shootout to eliminate tie games in the NHL. Before going to the shootout, though, overtime would be modified to include one five-minute period of four-on-four overtime and, if still tied, a three-minute period of three-on-three. If, after eight minutes of overtime, the game is still tied, then it would go to a shootout.

    I'm really not a fan of a shootout, although, as it seems its institution is unavoidable on the path to pleasing segments of the American fanbase, I'll only rail against the most absurd portions of these changes. I'd love to know what loon came up with three-on-three play, so I could immediately expel them from ever making a hockey decision again.

    By logical extension (or illogical, if you will), who needs a shootout when we can progress for two minutes to two-on-two action before a final minute of one-on-one closes out the game. The final two periods would be replete with circus music.

  • The winner of the game - in regulation time, overtime or the shootout - would receive two points for the victory. The loser, regardless of when the loss occurred, would receive no points.

    Thereby entirely tossing out the traditional points schema for the league. Brilliant. Especially considering that the prevalence of ties in recent years is directly related to the decline in goalscoring throughout the league. If the revised NHL could simply increase scoring (as it is proposing to do), then ties will decline. Kill two birds with one stone, as they say, and keep the one point for a tie intact.

  • The blue lines would be made fatter, as per the American Hockey League experiment this season, to slightly increase the size of the offensive zones.

    As long as 'fatter' doesn't imply the formerly mentioned 'blue ice' idea, I'm all for it.

  • The centre red line will be removed for the purposes of allowing two-line passes.

    As I've stated previously, I'm not in favour of this change.

  • Goaltenders will only be permitted to handle the puck in a designated area directly behind the goal net, as per the AHL experiment this season.

    An excellent idea. No one goes to a hockey game to see the high-flying action of a goaltender dawdling into the corner for the puck. In a contact sport, you can't have untouchable players creating scoring plays, whether they are from their own end or not. And the now-prevalent long bomb passes NHL goaltenders are capable of certainly qualify in this regard.

  • A modified form of no-touch icing, where the first player to cross the goal line - not to touch the puck - will dictate whether icing is called. In other words, if the defensive player gets to the goal line first, icing will be called. If the offensive player gets to the goal line first, no icing will be called. Also, when icing is called, the team that iced the puck will not be permitted to change lines.

    An excellent comprimise. The only thing I wonder is if this applies when the puck is at one side of the ice and the player passes the end red line at the opposite side. It could create curious calls from officials who have to somehow judge who crosses the line first at different sections of the goal line.

  • Any player in the defensive zone that shoots the puck directly out of play will receive a two-minute minor for delay of game. In the past, only the goalie was penalized for shooting the puck out of play.

    As McErlain notes, another idea that should have been introduced earlier.

  • Automatic fines to the coach and suspensions to the player for any fight with an instigator in the last five minutes of the game.

    Considering I'm not a proponent of the instigator rule itself, this idea doesn't tickle my fancy.

In all, I'm somewhat pleased with the changes proposed, aside from the absolute mess it now sounds like extra time will be. At least with a competition committee in place, changes are going to be proposed and implemented.

In the past, with 30 general managers all bickering over changes that would benefit their particular club, nothing was ever changed. And look where that got us.


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