This season the National Hockey League writers at Full Press Coverage are featuring an NHL Fans Mailbag. You send us questions. Our writers get together and provide answers.
To kick off the roundtable series, we asked some of our NHL writers: “If you could make one change in the NHL, what would it be?
Here’s what some of our writers had to say:
Change: Make Full Face Masks Mandatory for Players
—Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Fullpresscoverage.com
Why make full face masks mandatory? Many NHL players are husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers and teammates. NHL players are also multi-million dollar business assets. Therefore, the players should be physically protected without jeopardizing the game’s excitement they provide.
Players are already mandated to wear full facial protection when they are young, developing players. They learn hockey skills wearing this equipment. The transition to mandatory face masks in the NHL is a realistic and beneficial safety solution.
It’s detrimental to the player, his team, fans and fantasy hockey team managers when a player suffers an easily preventable injury. It is especially disrupting if players are injured long term.
Full face masks protect players from suffering injuries like cuts, broken noses, lost teeth, facial fractures and eye damage, all which occur from high sticks, collisions into the boards, and errant or raised shots.
Change: Fixing Overtime is Overdue
—Paul Dier covers the Minnesota Wild and the Central Division for Fullpresscoverage.com.
Why mess with the NHL’s regular-season overtime?
Simple. It needs fixing in two ways:
1) Eliminate teams earning one point for getting to overtime. It reeks of the Everyone Gets a Trophy mentality. “You ended up losing, Maple Leafs, but good try. Here’s a point.”
2) Eliminate the shootout. One-on-one skills competition should not be part of a team game. Instead, do this: Expand three-on-three overtime to 10 minutes. In the unlikely event that no team scores, a point shall be awarded for the tie.
Change: Re-define or Eliminate Goaltender Interference
—Jack Woods covers the Nashville Predators and the Central Division for Fullpresscoverage.com
Why change goaltender interference rules? Goaltender interference is often the pivot point between winning and losing hockey games. While the rule intends to protect the goalies, there have been way too many blown and missed calls.
Remember the Western Conference Finals in 2017 between Nashville and Anaheim? In Game 3, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg’s goal made it 1-1 early in the third period. Later in the period, Nashville’s Harry Zolnierczyk fell on Anaheim goalie John Gibson before Colton Sissons scored for the Preds. But Zolnierczyk fell into Gibson after being pushed by an Anaheim player. Didn’t matter. No goal.
Later in the third period, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm was called for goalie interference at 6:33 after skating in on Gibson, getting jostled and knocking Gibson over a moment before Ryan Johansen scored. The Predators survived the power play, but that’s not the point. This is: On one scramble where offensive players inadvertently clip the goalie, goaltender interference is not called. Yet a near-identical scramble where offensive players clip the goalie, it is called. It’s a maddening NHL mystery.
Either call goaltender interference consistently or don’t call it at all. Slightly tapping a goaltender’s pad on the edge of the blue ice is one thing. Skating through the blue ice and knocking the goalie over is another. Both should not have the same punishment.
Lean into your screens, NHL Board of Governors: Using my changes, only three penalty provoking situations exist for goaltender interference.
- When a goalie is severely interfered within the blue ice, a penalty shot is awarded to the goalie’s team.
- If a goalie is interfered with to the point he cannot square himself to the puck, a two-minute minor is assessed to the offending team.
- When a goalie is barely bumped on the edge of the blue ice and gets scored on, good goal.
- If a defender shoves a forward into the goalie, the forward’s team—the attacking team—is awarded a penalty shot.
Clean up the interpretations of goaltender interference or don’t call goaltender inference at all.
Change: Eliminate Replay on Offside Calls
—Kevin Gesterling covers the Pacific Division for Fullpresscoverage.com
Why should offside replays disappear from the NHL? Video replays are both controversial and annoying. First of all, replay judgements are often just guessing games because the difference of whether a player is on- or offside is so small. As a fan, I don’t mind a player being slightly offside, as long as it is not to a point where they are five strides over the line. It doesn’t bother me to see a player that is barely offside within reason. And it surely isn’t worth a ten-minute review. The rule kills the flow of the game and in some cases, it seems like officials get it wrong anyway. Rid the sport of this rule; there literally is no reason for it.
I understand the NHL wanting the call to be right, but in this case, trusting the linesman, as the NHL did for decades, improves the sport. Fans would rather watch hockey players flying around at full speed than referees on headphones standing around the scorer’s table.
Change: Adopt a Three Saves Per Period Rule
—Managing editor Roger Dier works with NHL Writers at Fullpresscoverage.com.
In a different life, I heard former NHL player, coach and general manager Lou Nanne advocate limiting the number of times a goaltender could smother the puck in a period. The idea stuck. I can’t remember how many smothers-a-period Nanne said goalies could make, but I think three goalie stoppages is perfect.
Think about it: NHL hockey is best after the puck is dropped. The too-frequent stoppages interrupt the game flow, and to keep our elegant game moving, the NHL could limit each team to three goalie puck smothers per period. If a goalie covers the puck after the three-stoppage rule kicks in, they’d be penalized, with their opponents choosing either to accept a minor penalty or taking a penalty shot. Wouldn’t that be fun? If one (or both) teams were out of goalie stoppages in a period, game action would have to continue. Mission Accomplished.
What else would happen? Line changes would become more interesting than they already are. Scoring likely would increase. We’d see goaltenders get creative with the puck, and we’d see more of their athleticism if they were out of chances to smother the puck. Fans could walk into arenas for a opening puck drop at 7:05 p.m. and know they’d be on their way home by 9:30 p.m., counting overtime.
The NHL should consider experimenting with this rule during the pre-season.
Change: Goals From Beyond the Blue Line Count Double
—Andrew Walsh covers the Detroit Red Wings and the Atlantic Division for Fullpresscoverage.com
One of the main complaints about the the NHL is there is not enough scoring. Fifty years ago, games routinely ended with four, five and six goals scored by the winning team. How should the league begin to fix the low-scoring problem?
Goals scored from behind the blue line could count for two goals. Sounds outlandish, maybe, but not as bizarre as the NBA having a three-point shot from behind the arc, which is painted 23.75 feet from the basket. Basketball purists fought the three-point shot for years, but it helped save the sport.
Yes, hockey is different from basketball. The distance from the blue lines to the goal lines on an NHL rink is 64 feet. And unlike basketball, hockey has a designated player to prevent goals.
Imagine the possibility of an NHL game coming down to the last minute of play, with one team behind by not one but two goals. Today, teams down by one goal pull their goalie in order to have an extra attacker to give themselves the best chance to tie the game. With my proposed rule change, this would not be necessary because the team that is behind by one or two goals could draw up a play where their best player falls behind his teammates and shoots the puck from behind the blue line. This would create a fan experience in the final moments of the game that could not be matched by any other sport.
Editor’s note: The 1967 Chicago Blackhawks scored 264 goals in 70 regular season games, an average of 3.77 goals per game. In 2017, Chicago scored 244 goals in 82 games, or 2.97 per game.
What Do You Think?
So what do you think of the proposed rule changes by our NHL Writers? What kind of changes do you think would improve the NHL? Share your thoughts and ideas in comments section below.
Thank you for following NHL hockey on Fullpresscoverage.com.
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