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Whenever the NHL and the NHLPA finally get an agreement on the CBA, there will be much to discuss about regarding the state of the game.  But that could be a while, so now’s as good a time as ever.  Recently, several HabsWorld staff members from various countries worldwide voted on a number of potential rule changes for the new NHL, as well as some other issues.  The following is a collaboration of the opinions, ranging from the AHL rules to oversized nets to penalties.

We start with the new rules incorporated in the American Hockey League this past season. A complete recap of our recommendations will appear at the end of the article, but if you want our reasoning, read the detailed comments for each rule.

Automatic Icing:  As is the case with many GM’s in the league, this was pretty much a split vote.  On the plus side, it prevents a few injuries and saves a bit of time without having to wait for the defending team to go back and touch the puck, but it does take away the exciting races that occur a couple of times in each game.  That being said, the slight edge was in favour of instituting this into the NHL.

Tag-up offside:  How many times do you see a potential play stalled because of a delayed offside when the attacking team has to wait for its opponents to clear the puck out of the zone before chasing it again?  Too often.  With tag-up, teams can just regroup at the blueline and giddy-on-up back in there and get it back, adding more flow to the game.  A unanimous yes vote, with the thought of why was it removed in the first place?

Extended Bluelines:  In order to attempt to prevent some offsides from occurring if a puck just left the zone, the AHL experimented with doubling the length of their blueline to 2 ft.  At first, it caused a bunch of confusion, and after that, the consensus was that it didn’t do much anyways, other than adding more colour to the ice.  It wasn’t unanimous, but there doesn’t really seem to be a point to adding this to the NHL.

Moving the nets back:  To try to discourage the cycle game, nets were moved back from 11 to 9 feet from the boards.  This allows more room for players to work in front of the net, which most of us felt was a good thing, which is why we’d recommend moving them back to where they were before (this was originally changed a little while back).

Goalie restricted zone:  In what many are dubbing the “Anti-Brodeur” rule, this would prevent goalies from playing the puck behind the net, except for the area directly behind it (but not in the corners).  This effectively restricts goalies from clearing the puck, but it also makes the dump-and-chase game a critical tactic.  Not unanimous, but this is something the NHL doesn’t need at the moment.  It’d be nice to see the goalies be closer to fair game though, but what are the odds of that ever happening?

The shootout:  We all know what this is, the one card the NHL has that can immediately add excitement to the game (and make for good highlights too).  Although it isn’t really right to have individual players end a team-oriented game, this was a unanimous vote in favour of using in the regular season ONLY, after the standard 4-on-4 five minute OT.  Come playoffs, it’s time for the marathon, edge of your seat, can’t get up even to go to the bathroom game, which we all know and love. 

Now, we move on to some of the ideas bandied about recently that weren’t tried in the AHL this past year. 

Enlarged nets:  Who was the “genius” that came up with this idea?  The nets have only been the same dimension for, I don’t know, a century!  Sometimes, bigger isn’t better, and this is one of those cases.  A unanimous no stinkin’ way.

Eliminate the red line:  The most debated issue in the NHL has had mixed reviews, and this is no exception.  It does create the potential for the stretch pass, but it could also backfire and create a more effective trapping style.  The vote was split down the middle, it may be beneficial to see this tried in the AHL first to see what comes about.

Reduction in goalie equipment:  An obvious unanimous yes vote, but the NHL must be careful not to jeopardize the goaltender’s safety, especially with the improvements to technology. 

Mandatory visors:  The Steve Yzerman incident in 03-04 brought about the discussion of making visors mandatory, like the league did with helmets decades ago.  However, the general consensus was that players are old enough to make this decision for themselves.  This is actually a CBA issue, and will not likely be changed at this time anyways. 

Full time 4 on 4:  Since overtimes for the most part have been exciting, even in the regular season, some are beginning to suggest the NHL experiment using it full-time.  This creates more space, which is good, but takes away many jobs, which the PA has said they won’t bite on.  Quite frankly, we agree with the PA here, this is not the time to make this change.

Expanded playoffs:  With revenues set to be at an all-time low, on the surface, it appears to be a great idea.  However, is the integrity of the game compromised by making it easier to qualify for the postseason?  Here, we’re not fer’ it, we’re agin’ it.  And, considering that the AHL tried this recently and then abandoned it, how effective can it be? 

Revising the points system:  Everyone is up in arms about this, the biggest point being is it right to award a point for losing?  Our answer?  Although this has helped Montreal in the past, we support eliminating the OTL point, but after that, it’s up in the air.  Assuming the shootout is enacted, the general opinion seems to be bring it to a win or loss scenario only, no SOL’s or whatever 3 letter abbreviations the league may think of next.

Next up, our thoughts on potentially changing the schedule around, and chatter about the sin bin:

Schedule alterations:  Over the past few years, many people of the media have been clamouring for a shorter season.  As fans, we don’t think so.  And right now, each team needs as many home game gate receipts as they can get.  One idea that popped up was a balanced 80-game schedule, playing 5 vs divisional rivals, 3 vs conference rivals (alternating the extra home game every other season), and each opposite conference team twice.  That way, every team visits every team at least once a season.  That being said, the majority vote was to stay at 82.

1 min penalties in OT:  In the past, players have got away with almost everything in overtime, as referees can be hesitant to call an infraction that puts a team shorthanded for 40% of the frame.  Shrinking the length could fix this, some say.  Here, we’re split on it, yes, it stops players from getting away with everything, but it adds another strange rule to the book, which, if some have their way, is going to look mighty strange come next season.

Full 2, or out after red?:  Back in the day, the unofficially dubbed anti-Montreal PP rule was adopted to stop the potent Canadiens PP from scoring multiple goals on a single penalty.  Now, has the time come to revisit this?  This is one of the few realistic ideas that could increase offence, and will further deter players from taking lazy penalties, which is why we say, let’s give it a whirl.  What’s the worst thing that’ll happen? 

Instigator rule – in or out?:  Should there be extra rules in place to protect players, or should players police themselves like back in the good old days?  And, to that, has the rule helped thus far?  Our reaction, not a single bit, how many instigators have been called lately anyways?  For that reason, we say, turf it, but if things really get out of hand (not likely to happen), then re-instate it.

Fighting – in or out?:  Currently, hockey is the only of the 4 ‘major’ sports that permits fighting, and many people want to see it abolished.  Not us.  Fighting is a part of hockey’s culture, and has been for many years.  You can tinker with some parts of a game, but to do so would be going too far.

Existing penalty lengths:  If there is one thing that needs to be fixed, it’s all the high-sticking going around.  Therefore, we propose that all high-sticking penalties be 4 minutes in length.  If blood is drawn, it becomes a 5 minute major, in which if a goal is scored, the length is not reduced.  This would serve as a significant deterrent for this infraction.  Also, we’d like to grant the referee the discretion to assess a misconduct for other stick infractions such as cross-checking and slashing, although only when deemed severe enough.

Finally, we’d like to share some ideas about how the NHL can improve their overall marketability, and not just in the United States.

– NBC currently is the only major US station that has broadcast rights to NHL games for next season, however, it doesn’t mandate what day games must be shown.  Therefore, we feel that NBC should consider showing Friday night games, when seemingly nothing is on anyways.  With really no other sports (except for the odd NBA game) on Fridays, the die-hard sports fan would have no real other option than to turn on the tube and watch some puck.  We think this is the NHL’s best opportunity to market their game south of the border.

– Rivalry night: As is being done in college sports, we propose that the NHL put together a set of games to be played on the same day, all involving major rivals.  The league experimented this last season with a limited number of games, and it went over well; time to let it go full blast.

– The NHL, unlike the other major sports, has done a porous job in the past of marketing their stars.  Allowing “Joe fan” to get to know the Nashes, Iginlas, and Roenicks of the league may turn them on to the game more.  This can also be done overseas with players like Forsberg, Kovalchuk and others, generating more interest in the game, as fans worldwide can cheer for their hometown heroes, or at least get to learn who they actually are.

– At the All-Star game, the NHL has several activities for fans to participate in, but only there.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see teams build some sort of interactive “arcade” to attract more people, particularly kids? 

Now, as promised, a recap of the changes we’d like to see:

– Automatic icing instituted
– Tag-up offside instead of the existing system
– Move the nets from 11 ft from the boards to 9
– Shootout in the regular season after a 5 minute OT period
– Reduction in goalie equipment
– No more points for losing (wins or losses only)
– Elimination of the instigator rule
– Serve full 2 minutes for a minor penalty
– Automatic 4 minutes for high-sticking, 5 if blood is drawn
– PLUS…the marketing initiatives mentioned above

These are the changes that we here at HabsWorld.net would like to see.  If you want to have your say, let us know on the forum, or use the comment feature by clicking on the respective link below.