While the NHL isn’t about to take any drastic steps yet, it appears that the league is carefully considering its options when it comes to making changes to the game in an effort to boost scoring.
Following Tuesday’s NHL general manager meetings, NHL senior vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell acknowledged that the league may have to look at altering the size of nets as an option.
“Maybe we have to go there, but before we do that I think you have to make every attempt you can to do what you can with the large goalie equipment,” Campbell said Monday.
With an eye on increasing scoring across the NHL, here are five ways to facilitate more pucks finding the back of the net.
Alter the shape of nets
It’s not just about making nets bigger than their current four-by-six configuration. Perhaps an adjustment to the shape of nets is in order.
The Buffalo Sabres experimented with augmented nets several years ago, auditioning a model with a curved crossbar and posts that made the goal’s opening 13 per cent larger than your standard NHL model.
Campbell noted that the league has looked at several proposed alternate net shapes when speaking with the media following Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’ve got about four different sized nets in my barn (from the past),” said Campbell. “They’re still there. I looked at them the other day. There’s weird shapes, there’s all kinds of shapes. We’ve used them in different games, in a Marlies game once.”
Curved posts or a lacrosse style net are certainly a possibility…but first…
Decrease the size of goaltender equipment
The NHL has moved to reduce the size of goalie equipment in recent years. Goaltenders started using shorter pads at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, but it’s hardly been any kind of panacea for the league’s scoring woes.
If changing the size of nets is off the board until the league can figure out what to do with goaltender equipment, then perhaps some more radical changes could be in order.
Decreasing pad width, blocker and trapper size, and upper-body protection are all areas that could be subject to change. Obviously the most important thing here is ensuring goaltenders are adequately protected, which could prove challenging when looking for a way to open more space between the pipes for shooters.
On Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines segment last weekend, Elliotte Friedman also discussed the option of smaller goalie sweaters, which netminders would have to fit their equipment under.
When in doubt, defer to the robots.
Instant replay is not an exact science. A human element remains. Whether it’s a lack of a definitive angle, a logjam of bodies limiting the NHL War Room’s view of the crease, or the parallax view, NHL officials can’t get them all right.
Goal-line technology could help eliminate some of the doubt when attempting to determine whether or not a goal should count. You run the risk of as many potential goals getting called back but still…MORE robots.
Call more penalties
Remember when the NHL emerged from the lost 2004-05 season and scoring was up, like way up, for the 2005-06 campaign?
A major reason for an uptick in scoring that saw individual teams go from averaging 2.57 goals per game in 2003-04 to 3.08 in 2005-06 was a heavy crackdown on obstruction. Teams averaged 5.85 power play opportunities per game in the post-lockout season, but a steady decline began the following year and individual teams averaged just 3.06 man advantages in 2014-15.
Hooking, holding, clutching, grabbing, ain’t called like they used to be.
Change power play rules
Sticking with the theme of power plays, how about forcing teams to play a man down for the entirety of a two-minute minor penalty?
Giving teams more 5-on-4 minutes per game could help generate more scoring chances. Then again, we could really open the ice up for offensive creativity by just making teams play even strength at 4-on-4.
Players and purists alike would surely would support this change…