National Hockey League goaltenders are many things: Soap opera actress-level quirky; prone to bruising; better-than-average TV analysts.
What they are not – despite the Shrekkensian braying that took place at the NHL GM meetings in Naples, Fla., this week – is the root cause of all that ails the offense-challenged league.
You wouldn’t know that, though, if you took the GMs’ latest assault on oversized goalie equipment as gospel. According to the suits, the chief reason the NHL still suffers from a distinct lack of goals can be laid at the skates of its netminders.
“It’s a huge problem for us,” Stars co-GM Brett Hull said in Naples of the ongoing controversy over goalie equipment that acts more as puck-stopper than body-protector.
Added Oilers GM Kevin Lowe: “I don’t think we’ve done enough to convince goalies to reduce (their equipment) size. If a couple of extra goals go in, great, from the standpoint of the fans.”
Now, regular readers of this space will know how much of a priority I think the league should place on increasing scoring. And there’s not a doubt in my mind the NHL ought to ensure equipment is custom-fitted to each goalie.
But why is the issue at the top of the GMs’ agenda (along with other secondary concerns such as one-minute penalties in overtime and tweaking the instigator rule)? You’re telling me these are the most pressing concerns the game faces today?
Adam doesn’t think so – and Adam only refers to himself in the third person when he gets exhausted from watching the NHL prioritize the treatment of symptoms, rather than dealing with the diseases that truly cripple the sport.
For instance – Buffalo GM Darcy Regier took time in Naples to, once again, speak out regarding the dire need for an NHL research and development arm to combat the ever-present menace of defense-first coaching tactics. And once again, no firm decision was made to go ahead and begin turning the concept into reality.
Regier and the Sabres first proposed an R&D wing for the league at the Board of Governors meetings in November; however, in staying true to form, the NHL moved on it the same way Nicole Richie moves on a Double Quarter-Pounder at McDonalds: Slowly, and with no small amount of fear.
But that’s the way the NHL has always worked – like a dragged-out, mass-sedated parliamentary commission, rather than a rapid-response bomb squad unit that understands as well as anyone why minutes and seconds are so crucial.
If there’s something that can be put off for a month or six, the GMs are more than happy to do so. And they’re happy to tell you why, just not right now.
What could possibly be the reason for shooting down a research and development mechanism that ensures the league can address unforeseen trends and/or future problem areas?
Could there be any downside whatsoever in making a conscious effort to do what all multi-million dollar corporations do with their product?
Not that Adam can see. Oh, there he/I goes/go again.
Above and beyond Regier’s pet cause, there are many more issues that require immediate examination and action by the GMs.
The proliferation and ramifications of head injuries, for instance. Or how the removal of the red line has made it easier for coaches to draw up even more conservative game plans. Or, simply, trap-happy coaches themselves.
For me, each one of those problems deserves a higher spot in the pecking order than oversized goalie equipment. Again, that’s not to say the league shouldn’t set its sights on righting a longtime wrong – but the days of postponing macro deficiencies in order to plug micro holes in the game need to end post-haste.
The GMs’ latest exercise in scapegoating certainly will win them support amongst the NHL’s goal-scoring community. It won’t get at the heart of what’s clogging up the game’s arteries, though.
And if secondary issues such as goalie equipment keep getting all of the league’s attention, cardiac arrest will be a mere inevitability.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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