Friday, October 06, 2006

5 Things The NHL Should Change

Garrett over at Puckhead's Thoughts is asking what 5 things would you change about the NHL? So I'll play along on a cold and rainy day.

  1. Eliminate the shootout. Bar none this is the thing that is going to prevent the NHL from ever rising above its status as a "cult" sport. Soccer has never caught on in this country because of its shootout tie breaker and U.S. fans were once again perplexed by the World Cup being decided on penalty kicks. Fans may not like tied regular season games but using a gimmick to decide them is even worse. There are 82 hockey games per team, per season. We don't need a winner in all of them and late in the season, there are ties that feel like wins and ties that feel like losses.
  2. Eliminate the goonery and thuggery. In addition to relying upon gimmicks to decide winners and losers, the NHL has always been hampered by its image of being a thuggish sport. Why wasn't Todd Bertuzzi thrown out of the NHL for his actions against Steve Moore? Go ahead and post all the You Tube clips of fights and the cheering from the fans. The people already in the seats are there because that is what they expect out of the NHL and in some cases, all they really care to see. It is the people who are sitting at home watching something else that the NHL has been trying desperately to get to watch the game but won't because of the thuggery. If the NHL cut out the thuggery, yes the fans already in the arena would leave. But the people the NHL has been trying to reach might start watching and would take the place of the fans who left to go watch Ultimate Fighting. It is going to take a long time for the NHL to "convert" itself and the causal fans that are ignoring them. But it would grow the game and make it better. The NFL used to be as wild as the NHL is today. I had a football coach in high school who played football when "facemasks were for sissies." Every year the NFL has taken more and more steps to cut down on the gratuitous violence and every year the NFL grows and grows. I don't hear much complaining about how the NFL "has gone soft." The NHL should follow their lead.
  3. Contraction. I admit that at this time I cannot produce a list of candidates to contract but the NHL needs to lose at least 2 maybe even as many as 6 teams. There just isn't enough talent to go around and fill 30 rosters. The trap came into vouge because lesser talented teams could play it and be competitive. With the salary cap, the talent is going to be spread out a little more evenly, but not well enough in my opinion to create the good teams that play the games that sports fans of all stripes remember.
  4. Kill the stupid trapezoid behind the nets and allow the goaltenders to play the puck. Wednesday night I watched as Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco hit Darryl Sydor with a clean breakaway pass to beat the Colorado Avalanche in overtime. The pass looked to be clean under the old two-line pass rules but that isn't the point. The NHL has plainly stated that they want more end-to-end action and rushes. Goaltenders can help start that rush. At the bare minimum, the NHL should expand the trapezoid so that a goaltender could have a skate clearly in his crease and still be able play the puck.
  5. Create officiating units like the NFL and MLB do. Pairing the same two referees with the same two linesmen for every game would lead to a greater consistency in calls and the unit would eventually develop chemistry. Referees and linesmen could still be replaced for injuries or incompetence, but players, coaches, fans, and media types would all know what to expect from certain refereeing units.

Ok, anybody else want to take up the challenge from Garrett?

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