If the league wants to do something to increase scoring, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby said the first place they should look is at goalie equipment, which is a route the league has taken in the past.
In speaking with NBC ProHockeyTalk’s Jason Brough, Crosby said he’d much rather the net — which has remained the same size throughout the history of the NHL — remain at it’s current 4-feet by 6-feet dimensions.
“I’m kind of a traditionalist,” Crosby said to Brough. “I would rather see the goalies get smaller equipment before the nets get bigger. I’d rather try that. But I’m all for more goals. However you want to do it.”
The argument about bigger nets was sparked Wednesday when Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss Mike Babcock said it was “impossible to score” in today’s NHL.
“All you gotta do is a math equation,” Babcock said. “You go to 1980 when the puck went in the net. You got the average size of the goalies in the NHL and the average size of the net. You keep growing the net bigger, that would make the game the same…The net’s too small for the size of the goalies. Period. The goalies are too good for the size of the net.”
When asked by Brough, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t agree with bigger nets. It would change the fundamentals of goaltending, Fleury said, and make the position more difficult for the netminders who had learned the position with certain angles. Instead, Fleury agreed with Crosby, telling Brough “there’s some stuff in the goalie gear [the league] could maybe round up so guys aren’t so boxy and big.”
The argument about bigger nets versus smaller goalie equipment has gone on for several seasons, with the NHL tinkering here and there on a nearly season-by-season basis over the past several years.
Altering the nets isn’t an altogether new idea. To begin the 2013-14 season, the NHL made the nets shallower in an attempt to increase the space behind the net and make wraparound attempts easier. The league also changed the structure of the posts, making them more square to open up an extra bit of space in the top corners.
The NHL has been much more serious about increasing scoring by reducing the size of goalie equipment. For the 2013-14 campaign, along with the net alternations, pads were no longer to go above 45 percent of the distance between the knee and pelvis, which was a change from the prior 55 percent. In addition, 2010-11 saw goaltenders adopt form-fitting equipment in an attempt to shrink gear. Post-lockout, in time for the 2005-06 season, the NHL also implemented rules restricting the size of gloves and blockers.
Since the 2005-06 season, the average goals per game has slipped from 3.08 — a significant increase from 2003-04’s 2.57 goals per game — to 2.73 in 2014-15. The decline has been steady, with the lowest goals per game coming in 2012-13 when teams scored 2.72 per game. Through 193 games this season, teams are averaging 2.81 goals per outing.