Tuesday, February 10, 2004

NHL Rings the Changes

NHL GMs suggest five changes
WebPosted Tue Feb 10 18:03:17 2004

CBC SPORTS ONLINE - The NHL is on the verge of drastic change.

NHL general managers agreed Tuesday to suggest five significant on-ice improvements to a panel comprised of coaches, players, executives and members of the media.

And, here they are, with my insightful and inciteful commentary on each one.

1. No longer allowing goaltenders to handle the puck behind the net.

Interesting - will stop the goalies acting as an extra defencemen, and will certainly help out forecheckers. I don't know that this is the most significant of the changes, though. As a side-thought, it will quite possibly lead to fewer goalies being injured, but that remains to be seen.

2. Reducing the width of goalie pads from 12 inches to 10.

Hooray! Compare these pictures to see why I'm enthusiastic about this...

Those pictures span about 20 years, so you can see the way things are moving. New materials available now should be able to shrink the goalies' pads without compromising their safety, and it will be nice to get back to an age when goaltenders actually had to move to make saves.

3. Rather than increasing the size of the nets, pushing the nets three feet closer to the end boards from the current 13 feet to 10.

I don't actually understand this one, although that's not meant to be a criticism. Perhaps they're just trying to make it easier for a lone forward to cut out a cross-ice, behind-the-net, pass? Anyone who wants to enlighten me on this one is welcome to have a go!

4. Resuming tag-up offsides, which allow offside skaters to clear the zone and let play continue.

Ironically, they originally removed tag-up offsides in order to try to increase flowing play through the neutral zone, which was anticipated to lead to more goals. However, it didn't work, and the NHL has wisely gone back to the way it was. This is a smart move.

5. Awarding three points for a regulation win in the AHL and two points for overtime and shootout wins, with the NHL adopting a similar format come 2005-06.

The best bit about this one is that they're going to try it out on the farm first. I don't know how much of an impact it will have, since I don't think playing for ties is as big a problem in ice hockey as it was in soccer when that sport adopted the 3-point win. That said, it probably won't hurt anything, and will certainly make a win something to really celebrate.

I think these are all good changes (even the one I don't understand). They left out a couple that I would have liked to see, in particular the institution of no-touch icing (does someone have to get killed before they go that route?). In addition, I think it may be time to look at reinstituting the full 2-minute power-play with unlimited goals, and maybe even reducing the number of players on the ice. This is a good start, however. That said, I must point out one thing - it's all going to be moot if there's no NHL next year, so perhaps now would be a good time to start working on a new CBA, hmm?

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