The New NHL
According to Darren Dreger, NHL GMs will be discussing whether or not removing the red line was good for player safety and even whether the decision to eliminate the two line offside has improved the game. Greg Wyshynyski, while worried about the safety issue, thinks that it has been a good rule, and is afraid that removing it will invite even more suffocating defense.
I would like to see a more comprehensive review of all the changes that were implemented following the lockout. It is pretty obvious that the most important objective – to increase offense – has not been achieved. Anyway, let’s look at all the changes, starting with the Puck Daddy issue:
1) No Red Line:
This was the one thing I did support among the package of new rules, despite the fact that Pat Quinn predicted the downside to the change. Defensemen can effectively ice the puck. They hammer the puck out and a forward posted near the opponent’s blue line tips the puck in. While the new rule does produce the occasional extra odd man rush, it does not produce extra offense probably because clearing the defensive zone is easier.
The puck does zip back and forth faster, but at its worst, it can resemble a game of pong. I no longer have a strong opinion on this one. My tipping point is probably safety. Perhaps it is time to slow down the game to make it safer. I would not oppose reinstating the red line.
2) The new standards of enforcement: Daniel Wagner points out that that referrees are calling far fewer hooking, holding and interference penalties these days. The league – and some observers – insist that nothing has changed in terms of the rule interpretation. Players have adjusted, some people say.
I doubt that. All this change has accomplished over the years is more inconsistent officiating but I don’t know what the league can do about it now. From where I am sitting, the standards have been relaxed and will continue to be relaxed over the coming years.
One reason I think the league is prepared to allow obstruction to creep back into the game is that aside from the goals from the extra penalties, an obstruction free game did not create more scoring. It turned out that interference didn’t help the offense any more than it helped defense. Eliminating hooking and holding might allow a Pavel Datsyuk dance in the offensive end, but it also allowed defenders to more easily get to loose pucks and turn them the other way. If there is one thing to be learned from the entire package is that it is very hard to tilt the game toward more offense.
3) The Shootout:
I still hate it. I hate it more now than when it was first implemented. I think some NHL games should end up as ties. Some of the most memorable games are ties. No shootout is ever memorable.
I would be able to stomach this change better if they had also delivered up three points for a win in regulation. My biggest objections to the shootout are a) teams stop trying to score with about ten minutes to go in a tie game and b) giving the winner of a shootout an extra point is a travesty.
Either dump the shootout entirely, or go to a 3-2-1 point system.
4 ) The Trapezoid:
This was a stupid rule then and it is a stupid rule now. It has done nothing to increase offense and it has made playing defense more dangerous for no good reason.
5) No Player Changes Permitted by Teams who Ice the Puck
I saw this as merely another gimmick, but I think it’s worked out pretty well. I’d keep this rule change.
6) Over the Glass Penalty
I’d prefer to leave delay of game as a judgment call. The punishment far exceeds the crime. Why not apply the icing sanction if the concern is teams deliberately stopping play to get a change?
7) Tag up on Offside Plays
I like the fact it keeps the game moving, but I don’t like the dump it in, dump it out fest that can sometimes develop and I don’t think we should make it easier to play defense in the neutral zone. I think this probably hurts offenses and helps defenses. Is that what we want?
Either way, I think the impact has been pretty marginal.
Goals increased initially in the “new NHL” – mostly because of increased power plays – but have since steadily fallen. Team scoring isn’t far from it was in 2003-04. It is also obvious that, for better or worse, the game is faster and has more flow. There are fewer whistles. The extra speed has probably made the game somewhat more dangerous. Whether that adds up to a better, more entertaining product is in the eye of the beholder.
Mostly, though, the new NHL looks a lot like the old one.