Earlier this week, ESPN asked a ton of the NHL players what changes they would make to the sport if they had the opportunity.
Unlike most answers hockey players give, a lot of them were actually very interesting. Of course, there was a good chunk of respondents who just said, “Well the NHL should go to the Olympics,” which is definitely true and honestly it’s still kinda hard to believe it’s not gonna happen.
But the others, most of which would change how the game operates procedurally, are worthy of lengthier discussion. So with all due respect to Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Seth Jones, Erik Karlsson, Mark Scheifele, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Tanev — who actually said, “I wouldn’t be on the team, but…” because he’s adorable — let’s talk about all the non-Olympic suggestions (and also ignore Tanner Pearson’s complaints about escrow being too high; don’t vote for the cap escalator then, buddy!).
17. Marc-Andre Fleury: Crack down on goalie interference
You knew some goalie was gonna say it. It’s not a big problem in the league and if anything it’s already over-regulated. Who cares. Get lost with this.
16. Jeff Skinner: No knobs on goalie sticks
How many goals does Skinner, who says he got the idea from Dartmouth Man Lee Stempniak, think this would add over the course of a season? Like, what, 15 or 20? Not even? Over 1,200 games.
15. Max Domi: Make the nets bigger
Leave it to the MAGA guy to push a dumb idea that a bunch of people already came up with.
14. Ryan Getzlaf: Crack down on diving
This is another thing that’s not a real issue in the NHL. And by the way, has Getzlaf seen who some of his teammates are?
13. Charlie Coyle: Make the ice bigger
This is one you hear a lot, but first of all we know that big ice only increases offense from the perimeter, and second, it’s not like the owners would willingly lose all those seats in their rinks. Never gonna happen.
This is one that I think is very frustrating to hockey fans who, by the time the Cup Final rolls around, get acclimated to seeing guys get mugged in front of the net and along the boards. It slows the game down, it makes things a little more dangerous, it’s not very exciting.
My only problem with the suggestion, then, is that the impact of such a change, which should absolutely be made (in theory). The only problem is that, generally speaking, you don’t want your games — especially when they’re getting a bigger audience later in the postseason — being penalty-filled whistle-fests, and you want games decided at 5-on-5. I don’t know that there’s a good solution here, but I support the general thrust of where they’re going with this.
11. Martin Jones: No laying out to block shots
Okay now we’re getting into the real meat of the suggestions. This is one that’s come up a lot and I think there’s some merit to it, especially because you can also argue it will lead to reduced injuries. Again, that’s “in theory” only, because you know guys will find a way to figure out ways around the rule after 20, 40 games.
For instance, say there’s a big scrum at the front of the net, how do you legislate that? Guy shoots it into a pile of bodies, it hits a defender on the ass or something. Do you whistle that defender even though he’s got a guy on top of him? If so, that doesn’t necessarily seem fair. If not, boy a lot more scrums are going to develop in front of the net on an extended offensive-zone possession.
Plus, most of the shots for which guys actively lay out are point shots with low-percentage chances of going in in the first place. Maybe you say not-laying out creates a tip-in or rebound. Sure, I guess. I wouldn’t mind seeing this implemented, I guess, but long-term I don’t know how viable it is as something that’s going to juice offense.
10. Connor McDavid, Tuukka Rask, and Roman Josi: Reinstate the two-line pass
Yeah one thing we definitely want from the game at this point is slowing it down with more whistles.
I understand the argument that it puts more skill on moving the puck out of the defensive zone with skill and passing and stuff like that. “In Theory” that’s better than just letting people huck it up the ice every chance they get, and might also force more own-zone turnovers that lead to scoring chances.
But slowing the game down should, at this point, be a non-starter. A few years from now when more of the low-skill guys have been flushed from the system? Sure let’s give it a whirl, but not now.
9. Dylan Larkin: Make 3-on-3 longer
Yeah I think that’s a good idea. I’ve said before I like the AHL’s format of 4-on-4 OT, then 3-on-3 OT, then a shootout. That is, if we have to have a shootout, but we’ll get to that in a second.
8. Vladimir Tarasenko: Automatic icing
I’d be fine with this, to a point. Keep a few seconds where a guy’s not just legging out a puck that got iced in a desperation situation on the clock, fair. But there is some excitement to a 50/50 race for a puck, so maybe just put the point linesmen use farther up the ice. If guys are neck-and-neck for an iced puck at the far blue line or even the red line, maybe let play go. But otherwise, yeah, by all means.
7. TJ Oshie and Jordan Eberle: Make goalie pads smaller
Absolutely this should happen. And I mean drastically. An inch here or there? That’s what the league has done for a long time now and it has no tangible impact. But if you significantly reduce the size of the pads, well, that’s a different story.
6. Patrick Kane and Ryan McDonagh: Time limit on coaches’ challenges
This should also happen with absolutely no caveats. Throw a two-minute timer on there and if they can’t figure it out definitively, tough luck for the team that challenged.
5. Shayne Gostisbehere: Teams have to make the long change twice
Giving teams the long change in the first and third periods, rather than the second and overtime, is verrrrrrry interesting. Goalscoring goes up in the second period because of the long change (from about 1.6 goals per first period to about 1.9 in the second), and probably some other factors, so, having it go up in the first and third periods could theoretically be huge.
Shayne, thank you for this one.
4. Jack Eichel: No offside
Here’s another one I like, but with a twist.
It’s not that there should be no offside at all. Theoretically you don’t want a team that’s down a goal just floating a guy in the neutral zone — or god, beyond — while they’re supposed to be defending. Not that most teams would do that in normal situations, but if you’re down two goals it might.
Instead, how about “no more blue lines?” It’s an idea like in soccer; you can’t be offside when you’re behind midfield. That discourages floating to an extent, and still requires guys to play some semblance of defense in situations when they “should.” But the second that team gets the puck, see ya. Send Andreas Athanasiou blasting through the neutral zone and hit him with a pass at the top of the circles. Who cares!
But that’ll never happen so instead…
3. Jonathan Drouin: Make the blue line a plane
Yup, if your skate is in the air over the blue line, you should absolutely be onside. That reduces reviews where we’re trying to figure out if a guy had his toe an inch off the ice. If he’s clearly above the blue line, who cares? Hell, make it so that if players trail their sticks behind them, that keeps them onside too. Whatever. I’m trying to think outside the box.
2. Taylor Hall: No more three-point games
I’m not sure how you legislate OT/shootout wins and losses, but every game should for-sure be worth the same amount of points in the standings. Thanks Taylor, I agree.
1. Johnny Gaudreau: Endless 3-on-3, no shootout
No explanation needed here. This is a perfect and pure idea. It should happen.
But because it’s the NHL, it never ever will.
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