I consider myself a hockey purist. Rule changes – or even rumors of rule changes – that alter the fabric of the game I grew up with and hold dear to my heart get my proverbial panties in a bunch.
Take, for instance, the shootout. I’ll admit it’s an entertaining display of skill and, win or lose, it’s nice to send fans home sister-kiss free. That said, the shootout is not hockey. Hockey is an end-to-end sport, with two goalies and at least six skaters, and games should be decided under those conditions.
Nevertheless, I must once again begrudgingly agree with Adam Proteau when he says, in several more words, if you’re not moving forward, you’re being left behind.
That’s why, after listening to Pierre LeBrun on Hockey Night in Canada’s Hotstove Saturday, it got me thinking about how to increase scoring.
With goals per game declining each season (5.24 GPG in regulation last season; 5.53 in‘06-07; and 5.94 ‘05-06) after the lockout (it was 5.02 in ’03-04), here are a few suggestions to help boost offense, without doing something extreme (like making the nets bigger).
• The idea LeBrun put forward on the Hotstove was one from St. Louis Blues GM Larry Pleau. He proposed whistling the play dead on a delayed penalty call when the offending team clears its defensive zone, not when it simply touches the puck. “How many times do you see pressure after a penalty is called and the defensive team touches it and the whistle is blown,” Pleau told LeBrun for his ESPN.com blog. “Instead, let’s bring on the sixth attacker, which fans love, and let the play continue until the puck is cleared.”
• Maybe I’m naïve, but there must be more that can be done to shrink goaltending equipment. I’m well aware extra padding is necessary during these days of 100-mph shots, but when there’s a piece of equipment called the “cheater,” something isn’t right.
• One rule that has always bothered me and, I believe, not had the intended result, is limiting goaltenders to playing the puck within the trapezoid. For many keepers, being forced to stay home has been self-preventative, as their roving buffoonery often led to more, not less scoring (remember the adventures of Arturs Irbe?). But for those goalies with stick skills, the trapezoid has had minimal effect. So, either get rid of the quizzical quadrilateral and let the unskilled tenders wander again, or don’t allow keepers to go behind the icing line whatsoever, which would make dump-ins infinitely easier.
• There are a couple of changes to penalty-killing that will help power plays and, of course, increase scoring (unless, of course, you’re the Ducks, who are clipping along at a woeful four percent after seven games): First, the league could mandate the full two minutes be served. Prior to the 1955-56 season players served full penalties, but the rule was changed because the league felt the ultra-skilled Canadiens had an unfair advantage scoring so often with the man advantage (Jean Beliveau scored three PP goals in 44 seconds the year before the rule was introduced). Second, don’t allow a penalized team to ice the puck. Just why are we making concessions for penalized teams, anyway?
• In the 2003 edition of The Hockey News Yearbook, former Coyotes GM Bobby Smith detailed how he believed widening the bluelines and red line to six feet would increase offense by making the neutral and offensive zones larger (because the puck would need to clear all the way over the thicker line on either side to be offside). The removal of the two-line pass has made the fatter red line moot and I think six feet is excessive, but there’s no reason, despite a failed trial run in the American League, not to explore the idea again.
• Last, but hardly least, it’s difficult to deny the excitement of 4-on-4 overtime, so why not encourage more 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 in regulation by removing the coincidental minor (or even coincidental major)?
Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who, it was announced yesterday, will drop the ceremonial puck at the Blues-Kings game in St. Louis Friday, recently said if she had a sixth child who turned out to be a boy, she already has a name picked out.
“I always wanted a son named Zamboni,” Palin told People magazine.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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