How many goals should there be?
I'm always amazed that I can write something like "last season was the sixth-lowest scoring campaign in the past 50 years — and goal scoring is trending downward" and still get vehement opposition from those that don't think a lack of offence in the NHL is a problem.
If it isn't now, it's likely about to be.
Here's a look at goal scoring since 1935-36, with the postlockout blip registered right there at the end. Note where the last two seasons fit in:
So much for the rule changes.
It's a difficult question, though: How much offence is enough? I'd never argue that a return to the eight goals a game style of the 1980s is where we should head, but is six too much to ask? Wouldn't the hockey be better if a shutout was a rarer feat, rather than something Brian Boucher can post in five consecutive games on a mediocre team?
And shouldn't it be easier to rally from a two- or three-goal deficit?
Last year, for example, there were six times as many shutouts as 20 years earlier. Pascal Leclaire posted nine, blanking the opposition in 17 per cent of his starts, and his team missed the postseason by a wide margin.
Here's a comparison of the NHL to other North American and European leagues. First up, the AHL and major juniors:
I'm actually surprised to see the Ontario and Quebec leagues mirror each other recently as the QMJHL has had the reputation as North American hockey's highest-scoring circuit for a long, long time. (Which is interesting given how many high quality goaltenders have come out of the province.)
The AHL and WHL, meanwhile, both have mimicked the NHL recently. All three leagues are known for playing fairly defensive hockey.
Here's the Swedish and Russian leagues for the years I could pull together:
The Russian league's always been a pretty low-scoring circuit, but we can see it making some progress toward the NHL, while the Swedish Elite League's totals have been falling.
So there's a range there, between five and eight goals, where essentially every hockey league falls into. Is there more entertainment value at one level over another? And is it worth making a major change to keep the NHL well above the 5.0 mark?