The Sedin brothers have won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies, so I think it’s safe to say that they’d have a pretty decent idea of how scoring chances have fluctuated over their years in the NHL.

So as a hockey fan it’s a little alarming when Daniel responds “For sure” to the question “Do you think the NHL is being dragged slowly back to the Dead Puck Era?”

Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province interviewed him after what Willes hilariously referred to as “Monday night’s tractor pull against the Coyotes,” and Daniel Sedin gave this comment: “It’s been going on for a few years, actually, but especially this year. There are a lot of these kind of games. That’s what people have to realize. It’s not like it was two or three years ago.”

Willes provides the following data to back up Sedin’s claim:

This year, goals in the NHL are down for the third straight season.

Now, in and by itself, that development isn’t overly alarming. We’re talking about three-10ths of a goal per game between the 2008-09 season and this year. But it’s also part of a trend that’s seen a steady downturn in goal production since the 2005-06 season, and that is alarming.

Before the lockout the hockey was downright gross from a forward’s point of view. Willes goes on to highlight that, and show how things changed following it:

In 2003-04 goals were down to an average of 5.137 per game, the lowest since the league’s first expansion. In 2005-06, they were back up to 6.051, almost a full goal per game, which in a 1,230-game schedule is significant.

That season also produced seven 100-point scorers, five 50-goals scorers and marked the rookie campaigns of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Add it all up and the NHL seemed to be at the dawn of a bright new era.

Yet here we are going the wrong direction, it would appear. We’re certainly not seeing that kind of output from top-end guys these days.

He also mentions that penalties have dropped from 11.7 per game in 05-06 to 6.9 per game this year, which is not insignificant. That’s going to put juuuust a bit of a damper on scoring (and it’s not like the refs are at fault there – guys just figured out they can’t play bear-hug hockey anymore).

Henrik Sedin highlighted a few of the biggest offenders when it comes to Deadpuck 2.0 in the West as well:

A couple of reporters were asking Henrik Sedin about the abomination they’d  just witnessed on Monday when the Canucks’ captain started rattling off the teams in the Western Conference who play like the Coyotes. He stopped at St. Louis, Los Angeles and Nashville, but could have added Minnesota, Dallas, Calgary and Anaheim.

Detroit and the Canucks, truth be told, play a similar style. The difference is they have the skill to make plays when those rare opportunities present themselves.

Willes goes on to hypothesize that the biggest reason for the decline in offense is simple: guys have adapted.

They’ve learned to better defend without holding, coaches have adapted new defensive systems more cohesive to the new rules, and everyone has just generally gotten accustomed to moving their feet instead of waterskiing behind guys.

As a fan of offense, the direction of the numbers concerns me a bit, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole hell of a lot we can really do. Are we supposed to overhaul the rules every time numbers drop? Replace goaltender gloves with hams? Make d-men wear rollerblades?

A lot of fans take issue with the constant tinkering of the rules. I’m not one of them – for my money, we’re refining the game – but a .3 goals-per-game drop over a three year span isn’t enough to make me want to leap into action just yet. It’s almost as though things are just settling in after the adjustment period, which I would wager becomes the “outlier” years on the graph after we play this way for another couple decades.

If teams are getting better at defending, then it’s on my offensive brethren to get better at creating. As long as the numbers don’t drop too far below where they are now, I can handle the type of hockey we’re seeing played these days.

Comments (28)

  1. Why is it so important to have more and more goals? Is it really just to appease and drag in the casual fans. I like offense too, but tight, low-scoring games can be (and often are) just as exciting… providing you are a fan of one of the teams I suppose.

    • I dunno, I think the more occasions there are to stand and cheer, the better. I respect good, solid D, but I know I personally enjoy a 5-4 game of firewagon hockey more.

    • There is nothing worse than going to a home game and your team scores zero goals. A home loss is bad but a shutout will make you question why you paid money to see this at all.

    • Becuase it sucks when a team scores the first goal and you know, as a fan, that the chances of a comeback are reduced drastically. Think of the Tampa-Boston Game 7 last year. That was just obnoxious.

      • I have heard that game called many things. Obnoxious was never one of them.

        • I tend to agree with boobs (fun sentence to write) — I didn’t hate the clutching and grabbing because of low scores, I hated it because it took the speed out of the game. Defense is getting better again, but it’s real defense, and I don’t mind watching that at all.

      • That was a great game, the fact that it was 1-0 was more due to the fact that both goalies stood on their head, it was the goalie’s duel that has been lacking since the lockout. That is the one thing I do miss about the pre-lockout NHL. I feel as though the playoffs were more exciting, tight goalie’s battles that always came down to the 3rd period and were often 1 goal games. I still remember watching the Dallas-Anaheim 5OT game. Yeah, they scored only 7 goals in what amounted to 2 2/3 games, but if you watch a replay of that game and tell me it wasn’t exciting you should take up competitive knitting.

  2. When the NHL came back after the lockout, all of the press was about the “New NHL” and the offensive uptick, rather than the economics. My conspiracy theory? The league is happy to let the goals drop now, and when they return from the upcoming lockout with restricted goalie equipment, the focus will return to the increased scoring, rather than how the players got worked over once again.

  3. Sure defenses and defensive systems are better.. but the reason goals aren’t scored like they used to be is goaltender equipment.

    One look at goalies in the early 90s vs now reveals that so much more of the net is unavailable because of the huge goalies we have today. When Patrick Roy was perfecting the butterfly he had no hope of playing mainly on his knees like many goalies do now. The only reason they can get away with it is because their equipment does so much of the work.

    • Patrick Roy also perfected the 8 sizes too big jersey to catch the pucks in between his arms.

    • Hate to burst your bubble, but goalie equipment is actually smaller than it was in the mid-late 90′s.. No blocker regulations (remember that wierd shaped vaughn vision blocker? yeah, it was HUGE), glove regulations, pads were 12″. The equipment is BETTER, but shouldn’t it always get better? Look at player’s equipment now, should we go back to wooden sticks, old Tacks with the rubber stopper on the back, and cooper buckets that prevent concussions about as good as a block of concrete (althought the bauer 4000 is still the sexiest helmet ever made)? Equipment across the board is better than it was, and goaltending is played better now than it ever has been. I don’t see the problem.

    • if it were merely the equipment doing the job, then anyone could play goalie. your statement lacks any insight or real knowledge of the position or game. the men in the equipment are bigger, better, and faster. the gear, however, is the smallest its been in the modern area.

  4. I disagree that all those teams have completely adapted. Sure, teams have made changes and traffic-cone D men are for the most part no longer in the league (save Andy Sutton), but clutching and grabbing is definitely making its way back into the game.
    If there aren’t as many penalties being called, make the instances they are called more valuable. Force the team that takes the penalty to clear their defensive zone before stopping play- no more touch/possession that stops play to call the penalty. Also, no more icing the puck for penalty killers

  5. Hockey is hockey. Why do we insist on making it better/worse. Leave the game the way it is and get rid of 6 teams from the league. You will see all of these problems fix themselves as the talent pool will improve drastically.

  6. I don’t think the number of goals is the issue, but more about the flow of the game. It is clear that things have changed. There is so much more board play and 1-2-2 or 1-3-1 passive systems patiently awaiting a mistake. The up and down flow with open ice skating has really been limited. So much of the game is chip, chase, and puck battles on the wall. That is one of the reasons the Rangers are atop the East. As a season ticket holder to the Caps, they are probably the most drastic example. Games, even the 3-1 or 3-2 games, were exciting and lots of action. Now games are no where near as exciting and we see a game with a passive forecheck, board play all over the place, and a boring game. The actual score is almost irrelevant.

    Not sure what the league is supposed to do, if anything. I don’t want a manufactured 5-4 game, but an honest fast paced, hard hitting, exciting game even if it is 2-1. Here’s hoping aggressive teams dominate the playoffs and the rest of the league follows suit.

  7. The solution is so damn simple and people keep missing it. Reduce the size of goaltender equipment back to what it was int he 80′s. The pads were 10″, the gloves looked more like baseball gloves, without cheaters along the wrist or between the wrist and thumb, and the chest pads and pants were more form fitting. Goalie pads are meant for protection. Given the enhancements in pad technology over the past 25 years, goalies could be every bit as well protected as they are today with equipment that was the size of the 80′s goaltenders. Pads have gotten bigger to make stopping the puck easier, not for protection. If you take pads back to the size necessary for their original purpose of protection you’ll open up significantly more net and increase scoring without significantly altering the game.

    • I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’re not a goalie, soooooo yeah, take a clapper off the collarbone with a chest protector from even the late 90s and tell me that today’s protection isn’t necessary. Why is it only a problem when goalies get improved equipment? Players have the lightest/best performing sticks, skates, gloves, etc. that have ever been produced, why handicap the goalies? You can’t keep making stuff smaller and expect them to be protected, there’s a reason goalies back then were always hurt and careers were shorter..

  8. As a Blues fan I’m constantly irritated with opposing fans (and players) taking jabs at them as a boring, trapping, dead-puck team. I’m sure they’re frustrating to play against or root against when they’re out-hustling your team to every puck and keeping your offensive players to the outside with smart positioning. It may seem like a dead-puck game when your team gets around 20 shots. But in the meantime the Blues are playing a fast, hard-forechecking game and doubling the other team up on shots. They don’t have the snipers to double up the score, but lord knows they generate the opportunities, and that’s where the excitement comes from.

    Sorry, Henrik, that the Blues don’t let you and your brother play like it’s a pick-up game…

    • when someone calls the Blues a “trapping” team, i immediately assume they are a moron. a team that doesnt have a marquee star has to get it done as a group, which is what the Blues do. they outwork the other team in all areas of the ice, create the opportunities they can with 20/30 goal talent, and get some bang on goaltending at the other end when they do give up chances. think of how many odd man/ break away chances Els and Jaro have stopped this year. if you can appreciate the hard work a team like the Blues puts in, youre watching the wrong sport. Go watch fucking basketball if all you want to see scoring.

  9. Clearly we need smaller goalies. Bring back Darren Pang!

  10. I have a crazy theory: Teams like to win games. Half of winning games is not allowing goals, so teams are constantly working to reduce goals against.

    I think in the 80s/early 90s there was a different philosophy: score lots of goals and don’t get beat up/do the beating up. Not until mid-90s (trap Devils?) did teams start to focus on defense as a primary strategy. In 2005 the post-lockout rules created a different environment, but now defenses are catching up again.

    The salary cap has changed the realm even more. Goal scoring is expensive. Under the cap you can only afford so many guys that can score, and not everyone can learn it. However, any pro-level hockey player should be able to learn a defensive system, positioning, puck movement, etc. So, teams buy what offense they can, then teach a system to the rest of the roster. Systems win games these days. You see today’s Wings collapse on the net when under pressure? 5 guys within 20 feet of Jimmy Howard?

  11. id like to see the goals called back chart , correct me if im wrong , but seems like this year its been bad . brutal goalie interference calls has been a problem all year .. also concussions are a problem , a healthy crosby scoring 50 + goals could boost the percent up , not just him but alot of top end guys have had concussions . less goals all around

    • the problem is the nhl is mostly average hockey players – average players play mediocre hockey because they can’t do much more than bump and grind. i’m simply not interested in watching a slow, no talent team (which hitchcock seems to relish) repeatedly knocking the puck off the boards. thanks but no thanks.

  12. i would say the main thing is that there is so many good golaies now , almost all teams have a great starter , and also once Crosby returns next year (as long as he doesnt be stupid and try to play again this year, take the year off and play a full season next year) he will put up about 120+ points and there will be less complaining about lower goals because crosby will show you great players can put up impressive numbers

    • what do you mean if “he doesn’t be stupid”? if crosby’s well he needs to play. this is not a country club – especially if he’s paid 10M/year. the way things are going now, though – plays a few games then goes off for 3 months – he MIGHT as well hang ‘em up.

      on the goalie issue: this position is vastly overrated. all 30 starting goalies are cloned, interchangeable entities and simply do not deserve exagerated claims of “standing on his head” to make a save.

  13. “A couple of reporters were asking Henrik Sedin about the abomination they’d just witnessed on Monday when the Canucks’ captain started rattling off the teams in the Western Conference who play like the Coyotes. He stopped at St. Louis, Los Angeles and Nashville,”

    I know this is way late, but I just came across this on one of those Related Posts things at the bottom of another post. Phoenix, St. Louis, LA, Nashville. The four teams that made it out of the first round in the West.

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