Buffalo Sabres v Florida Panthers

The idea isn’t a revolutionary concept or anything, so don’t get your hopes too high, but it seems to me there’s a way to tamp back fighting that would bump up scoring: punt the idea of “coincidentals” after fisticuffs and actually make the penalties cause a loss of a player, as in, go to four-on-four.

I’m not the type who even wants to see less fighting in hockey, but the voice from the minority who do is getting louder (and there’s the whole “wow that’s really dangerous” common sense thing, but shh it’s fun), so I figure this could be a nice little compromise. And hey, given that the league is constantly clamoring to find a way to get more pucks in the nets, here’s why I think this works.

First off, knocking it down to four-on-four is a pretty clear way to generate more chances and thereby goals (the numbers bear this out, via @ngreenberg). At the very least, the league thinks it does, because overtime is currently four-on-four in hopes of finding a winner (and quick) before we have to go to a shootout. If there’s a melee and multiple fights, we pare it down to three-on-three, and you’ll see some great end-to-end action that allows skill players to maintain possession longer and get creative (for more on why three-on-three is super neato, read this post by some Justin Bourne dude).

As for bringing fighting numbers down, there will be teams that realize they aren’t cut out to succeed at 4-on-4 (especially when playing higher-powered offenses), and will discourage their players from fighting unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, and it takes two to tango (you can’t really fight the completely unwilling). Also, any team with a lead will be less eager to fight and up the likelihood of swapping more chances, and again: two, tango, etc. And just in general, I think coaches like to think defense-first and avoid run-and-gun hockey, so not many will encourage their players to get out there and shed them mitts.

As long as there are any reasons that one side will be less interested in fighting, aside from “don’t give them a reason to wake up” (which is really all we currently have), you’re going to have less fights. In fact, you may have more guys on losing teams trying to bait guys into fighting, which results in taking penalties, which results in more offense too. Maybe you’d have to call a few more instigators on the team on the down side, but that’s not much of a problem.

The point is, the last thing you’d want to do as the team in the lead is fight, the trailing team would probably take more penalties looking to open up the game (both of which create more offense, whether the fight happens or a penalty is taken), so it seems to me you’d have fighting down, and scoring up.

Basically, it’s an idea I was kicking around in my head this morning that I’d like your help on. Would this work (increase offense, decrease face-punching), or am I missing something glaringly obvious? Can you tweak it to make it better?

And finally, if your suggestion is “leave the game alone,” please take a hike down Beat It St., and feel free to comment on the next post instead of this one. We’re just spit-balling here, this isn’t a board of governors meeting.