The thin red line
This is exactly what many hockey observers feared most when the NHL eliminated the red line. Those who have watched international hockey have seen some truly mind-numbing games as a result. It was a tactic employed widely by the Czechs when they were having so much international success in the late 1990s and early part of this century. It produces winning hockey, but can also slow the game to a crawl.
"All you do is go back to the (1998) Olympics and watch the Czechs play the Russians in the gold medal game. You talk about less chances and no scoring, go back and watch that game. People talk about the red-line, I watched it for years scouting in (U.S.) college and it doesn't do what people says it does."
"I don't think that's the key. Maybe short term it would open up the game but teams would adjust. In Europe you just move the trap back and you still have problems scoring."
TSN analyst Pierre McGuire is convinced it will open up the game. Fellow analyst and former NHL GM Brian Burke calls it "stupid" and "ignorant." Defenseman Dan Boyle, who used to favour the two-line pass, changed his mind after a season in Sweden. Dave King, who has coached in the NHL and Europe, doesn’t like it either.
Taking out the red line was always a bad idea, although it's only been one contributing factor in the decline in scoring this season — and especially in the playoffs. There were a number of high-profile coaches who spoke out against the move during the lockout, but the change was made because of both ignorance and due to the fact it was an easy switch to make.
The 2005-06 season is looking more and more like a blip for the NHL, one in which players and coaches had to step back and readjust given all of the new tweaks put in at the same time after that year away.
There weren't nearly as many players beaten by a long pass this season as in 2005-06, and it's awfully tough to beat a defender who's already at his own blue line. (And what choice does he have other than being there when goals are this tight?)
Three years ago, Brian Burke knew what taking out the red line meant, and he's found a coach in Randy Carlyle who is able to implement a European style defensive game and squeeze the life out of teams like the Senators.