How I Would Change the NHL
A post today on Puck Daddy’s blog on Yahoo.com regarding whether or not the shootout really entertains got me to thinking on how I would change the game for the better (at least in my own mind.) So, here you have it. The changes that I would make to the game, in no particular order.
- Revise the Shootout. Ok. I admit it. I’m a sucker for the shootout. I love watching it. I think it’s an iffy way to end a game, at best, but I absolutely love watching the extra time skills competition. That said, there are definite ways in which I feel it could be changed for the better. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog already suggested this in his blog today, but I would take two of his suggestions. First, have the players take the shootout with their helmets off. How much more interesting would that make it? You’d get to see the full expressions on the players faces, the visual of a player bearing down on the goalie with the wind rushing through his hair. The argument against this is always that it’s dangerous for the player. But, really, how many times have we seen a player blow an edge and slide into the boards or get tripped up by the goalie and go sliding into the boards? To be honest, I can’t think of a single occasion off the top of my head. Next, I also love Wysh’s idea of having a camera skate behind the player. Don’t get me wrong. The camera angles that they use for the shootout now are palatable. But that’s just it. It doesn’t make it any different to watch. It’s like watching a penalty shot. Give the shootout some distinction for crying out loud! If you’re going to use it, make it a spectacle! Give it some coverage that separates it from the rest of the game. Finally, I would also extend the shootout from three to five shooters. Let’s be fair here; three shooters in the shootout is one of the largest anti-climaxes in sports. It can end far, far too quickly. To me, five shooters just flat out gives a better on ice product. It gives the fans a little extra hockey while giving the players a little more leeway. In other words, one mistake will not necessarily lose the shootout this way, whereas in the current way, one mistake typically spells the end.
- Extend Overtime. As much as I love watching the shootout, I would much rather see the game decided in overtime. It decides the game the way it should be decided; with the entire team on the ice. So why not extend overtime? Extend it to ten minutes of four-on-four hockey. If, by the end of that ten minutes, a winner still has not been decided, then the shootout comes into play. If a hockey game has been deadlocked for 60 minutes, five more minutes most likely will not be enough to tip the scales one way or the other. Add five more minutes on to that and see what happens. If nothing else, it provides a little extra hockey before the end of the game.
- Get Rid of Concurrent Fighting Penalties. You want an easy way to force those players that just can’t skate out of the game? It’s as easy as this. Fighting penalties are one of the most pointless penalties in the game, in my opinion. For the most part, all it does is put a player in the box who would otherwise not see the ice for more than 15 seconds during that five minute period anyway. It does nothing to penalize the team. Taking out these concurrent fighting majors would bring each team down to four-on-four for those five minutes. First of all, it would make for an exciting five minutes as it would open up the ice a great deal. Second, it has the potential to save the fights for when the really matter; not just when two neanderthals on skates decide to pummel each other.
- Make the Regular Season Worth Something. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have division championships and the Presidents’ Trophy. But realistically, do teams really care about that? They care about making the playoffs and that’s it. Why not expand the playoffs just a smidge to make it interesting? Cut out the pre-season schedule and have the regular season start earlier. Then, after the 82 games are completed, the top four teams in each division go into a “playoff” for the division title. You could play single games or a best-of three series, but the four teams play it out for a shot at one of the top three seeds. Once the “division playoffs” are completed, the top three are seeded in relation to their regular season record and the remaining five spots are filled by the top five remaining records, regardless of division. Think of the intensity that this would bring to the final few months of the season. Done this way, a team as hot as the St. Louis Blues or Columbus Blue Jackets have been would have a legitimate shot at getting home ice advantage if they got hot at the right time. At the same time, however, teams like San Jose or Detroit who do legitimately deserve to be in the playoffs, would still make it.
- Get Rid of the Third Point. The NHL needs to stop rewarding mediocrity. A loss is a loss is a loss, no matter how you look at it. Plain and simple, the NHL needs to get rid of the overtime loss and simply go by wins and losses like every other league does. The extra point for making it to OT made sense when ties were part of the league, but now it has lost all context and does nothing but reward teams for losing and muddle the standings. If you lose, you don’t get anything, plain and simple.
- Change the Trapezoid. I don’t think we should get rid of it, but I think its definition could be changed. My idea is to do much like lacrosse has done. Make the trapezoid an extension of the crease and give the goalies quarter behind the net there. However, if the goalies venture into the areas in the corner not protected by the trapezoid, they are fair game as any other player would be. First, this would allow goalies who are genuinely good at playing the puck the opportunity, but it would also provide a potential deterrant for them doing so. Goalies would still be protected everywhere else on the ice, just not in the corners.
So that’s a few of my views on how the game could change. Any ideas, thoughts or your own views on how to change the game?