The NHL is currently seen a reduction in goals per game. This is nothing new and has been a continuing trend for several seasons. The NHL, in the General Manager’s meetings, has posed a way to change this. There are other ‘talking heads’ like myself in the sport who have their own beliefs. I want to share with you some of the common ways I have heard to fix this issue.
The NHL has determined that major changes are coming to the 2016-2017 season in terms of goalie equipment and/or the size of the net. They feel that these two things will allow teams to score more goals. In a previous post, I spoke about the NHL’s lack of making player safety its #1 priority. Here again lies a great example of this.
They have already altered the equipment once in recent years. Now they plan on making the padding smaller, the jersey tighter (more restricting), yet they have not made a point to speak of the ‘Cat’s Eye’ masks. Marc-Andre Fleury almost lost his eye the other night and the NHL isn’t going to flinch on that? Instead they are going to give the players tasked at stopping 85 MPH frozen rubber discs smaller equipment. Makes perfect sense.
Secondly, the game has gotten faster. The goalies crease is not the protective bubble it once was. The goaltender interference call has not deterred players from cutting hard to the net and trying to make a play. In baseball the infamous player/catcher collision happens every few games, if even that. In hockey, every night, the goalies are dealing with players running into them. Let’s give them even less padding and see what happens.
The NHL’s way of solving this problem will work because you will have third string goalies in starting roles. The NHL is not in the least bit concerned with the goaltenders safety and that is a travesty. Not to mention the fact that the goalies have simply gotten better over time. So instead of applauding them for this, we just take away from the fact that they have separated themselves as elite.
Another argument I have heard is that the net needs to be bigger. This is as bad as saying that a goalie should no longer have a glove and blocker. The net is a fundamental piece of the sport and not part of actual gameplay. It should not be changed. The ice surface should not be changed. Hell, the blue lines should have never been moved. If hockey has a constitution, these would be items protected by the constitution, never to be changed regardless of where the sport goes. This isn’t soccer.
Power-plays have decreased over the past several years despite rule changes. This is not surprising as most teams have now adapted to the new rules and the rules have trickled down into the developmental leagues. One article I read suggested that the referees call more penalties. Seriously? Let’s just alter the game for the sake of altering the game. That’s an ingenious idea.
It’s also an idea that makes an assumption that calling more penalties will lead to more goals scored. Let’s think about this. Even if you say on average a team is 25% effective on the power-play, which is generous, this means that for every 4 penalties called, one goal is scored. So you need to call about 6 additional penalties per game in order to average around 3.5-4 goals per game (highest was 4.01 in ’81-’82).
If the play is to call more penalties, as a coach I am focusing more on special teams. My power play will hopefully excel and my penalty kill will be dominant. I will work on ways to minimize the power play goals my team allows and thus win more games. Unfortunately this will not help the average goals scored per game. Shucks.
I have also heard one other argument, which I believe is actually the most plausible of the arguments. This argument is to not call more penalties, but increase power play time. This is an interesting suggestion. Would this lead to more goals? Would power play personnel be more effective? Would this lead to an imbalance of Time on Ice (TOI) for particular players, rendering your ‘big guns’ less effective deeper in games? Does this go against the constitutional philosophy that all minor penalties are 2 minutes in length?
I am an opinionated person, however, the verdict is still out on that suggestion. I have a hard time changing the two minute power play, but could see it as a viable solution that doesn’t affect player safety. On the other hand, it goes against the principle of keeping traditions in the sport. One thing is clear, the NHL is tasked with growing the sport. I get it. How many life-long, diehard fans actually want to see this change? How many people in the hockey world really care how many goals are scored? I think the NHL is focusing on things they have no control over. Perhaps they should evaluate the markets they currently have teams in, prepare for expansion if necessary and build upon an already great product.
What are your thoughts on scoring in the NHL and ways to change them?