5 Simple Ways To Increase Scoring In The NHL
The game has changed in almost every aspect since guys like Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Fedorov played. The revolution of nutrition and training alone has made the NHL bigger, faster, and eliminated time and space at every position.
Because of this, there have been rumors of larger nets, smaller goalie pads, and seemingly everything in between to boost scoring numbers.
This year, goaltenders were given until Feb. 4 to start wearing new mandatory streamlined pants. Even if the change in pant size opens up just one or two more inches of net, the NHL expects it to make a difference.
Those in favor of bigger nets or smaller goalie equipment are in the minority. Natural changes to the game are best. Goalie equipment has gotten bigger, because shots have gotten faster and players who crash the net have gotten bigger -- it's about protection.
The best kinds of changes are simple ones. Below are five ways to naturally create more offense in the NHL.
Erase The TrapezoidIf Martin Brodeur doesn't like the trapezoid, neither should you. There has been a steady hatred of the trapezoid since its installation in 2005-06.
While the trapezoid does exactly what it is meant to do -- eliminating goalies from acting as a third defenseman -- it keeps them from trailing too far from their creases. Some goalies pride themselves in their puck-handling and often find themselves behind the net making a play.
Even the best puck-handlers make mistakes. It's easier to make desperation saves when those miscues happen close to the net, but if a goalie wants to take a chance in the corner that should be his right.
By eliminating two short lines behind the goal line, goalie mistakes can naturally open up offense. Sure, open-net goals aren't as fun to watch as a Patrick Kane snipe or a Connor McDavid deke, but a goal is a goal and every one counts.
Penalty Faceoffs Carry OverYou already know a powerplay starts with an offensive-zone faceoff. What if the NHL added to that?
There are plenty of penalties that carry over between periods and even overtime, too. The man advantage is designed to spark offense; that's why it immediately starts in the offensive zone.
The end of a period shouldn't change that. Penalties that carry over between periods should start right back up in the offensive zone. Moving the traditional center-ice faceoff to start a period isn't as natural as the other topics on this list, but it would be rare enough to be an intriguing inception.
The start of the period allows both penalty killers and top powerplay units to be rested and ready to get back to defending and cycling the puck, respectively.
Moreover, opting to start the powerplay back up in the offensive zone gives it more time to force offense, rather than gaining the zone, setting up the cycle, and looking for a goal.
Allow Kicked-In GoalsPlayers are allowed to use their feet to make passes, win faceoffs, and tie up the puck along the boards, so why not allow them to score a goal with them, too?
The ability for flying sticks, fists, and big bodies to get tangled up in front of a goalie, who is simultaneously trying to use his hands to grab a loose puck in the crease, is one reason. Add in swinging skate blades and the goalies job becomes much more dangerous.
So the ultimate idea here is that players can kick the puck in so long as their skate blades don't actually leave the ice. It sounds more difficult to determine than it actually would be in a game.
General managers recently opted to keep the rule of a player's back skate needing to maintain contact with the ice to stay onside.
The GMs clearly feel calls around the league have done the offsides rule more justice than harm. That means that ruling whether or not the skate left the ice on a kicked-in goal -- which would likely be reviewed under more scrutiny and certainly with more camera angles -- should be easy enough to determine.
By forcing a player to keep his foot planted on the ice, it eliminates the chance of a sharp blade to end up somewhere it shouldn't.
Resize Offensive ZonesA lot of changes were enacted ahead of the 2005-06 season, including the reduction of the neutral zone, which in turn added four feet to each offensive zone. The NHL believed this would create more space, and therefore time, for or an attacking team, particularly on the powerplay.
In the search for more scoring, do it again. Even larger zones should add even more time and space for attacking teams. The larger zones would allow teams to hold the blue line better and let the puck out less should the defenseman fumble a pass to the point or an attempt to get the puck out.
Or, try it the other way. In August of 2015, legendary coach Scotty Bowman was asked what he would do if he were NHL commissioner for a day. His answer was to remove the added four feet to each offensive zone.
"If you take out the four feet in each end zone, now the blue line is closer to the goal, and I think you'll have defensemen able to get more shots through from the point and more goals on rebounds and deflections," Bowman said.
His thought process is intriguing. He went on to say that coaches teach their players that there's too much room to cover, and it forces the defending team to constrict its coverage closer to the net rather than play aggressive against the attacking team.
Call PenaltiesAlso introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season, the NHL emphasized officiating, stating there would be zero tolerance for interference, hooking, holding, and other comparable obstructions.
Maybe it lasted for a short while, but the lack of consistency from game to game and from referee to referee is abundantly clear.
That's part of the game, however. Players learn the calls certain refs are prone to or tend to let go. But the NHL can, and should, dive deeper into consistency.
Too often can a guy get away with lying on or holding down an opponent as the puck moves up the ice. Too often do blindside hits, hits from behind, and overall dangerous hits go without repercussion or are simply labeled as a "hockey play."
Nobody wants to see an endless amount of penalties, and games are undisputedly more fun when the refs just let the teams play, but when a play obviously warrants a penalty, it needs to be called.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.