Pekka Rinne3

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Most people fear change, but few groups of people loathe it more than hockey fans. This is a sport that feasts on nostalgia, with the league’s biggest successes  of the past decade being the Winter Classic and commercials like “History Will Be Made” and “No Words.” Remember “No Words”?

…tear, tear, tear.

Ah, the good ol’ days, right? “Everything was better then.”

And, maybe some things were. But there’s no way the NHL would be the great product it is today if the league wasn’t willing to evolve, and it has been, to the chagrin of many. They knocked out obstruction, limited goalies ability to break the puck out, downsized their gear and more, all in the interest of improving a product that was becoming overly defensive. Things got sloggy, so they opened up the game. Negative trends emerge, they fix ‘em, and we move on.

I’m in favor of the game evolving with the talent, so with the GMs meetings taking place in Boca this week, I figured I’d throw my hat into the ring. Here are the changes I believe would lead to a better NHL product.

5 changes

Fix face-offs

One thing Darren Dreger tweeted about today after the initial GM meetings was the idea of punishing faceoff cheaters by having them move back a foot. This would be fantastic.

As it stands, when a team needs an extra couple seconds to get set or catch their breath, they’ll send in a winger to take the draw who’ll proceed to cheat so egregiously that he gets kicked out. The team then looks around to figure out who’s going to step in and take it, then…blah blah blah, 10 seconds burned, mission accomplished.

If you don’t want to make that a flat-out delay of game penalty (as mentioned here), I love the idea mentioned above. If you cheat, the other team has a better chance at winning the draw. Fair’s fair.

By the same token, there was an idea to widen the hashmarks (as they do in international play) so there’s less contact off the draw among wingers and d-men, which means less picks, which means more room for talent to work.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Make goalie interference reviewable

Goalie interference is a pretty important call. As it currently stands, when a dicey goal is scored, you hope the ref was looking directly at the player/tender interaction, then you hope he had the right angle of it, then you hope he saw something that indicates if the goal should count or not and doesn’t have to guess.  There have been a number of cases where goals have been called off this year when the player never touched the goalie. Why leave this to chance? That’s a pretty pivotal decision.

You can review a ton of plays throughout a hockey game, and one that directly impacts the scoreboard can’t be reviewed? If you’ve hired a guy because you think he consistently makes reliable subjective calls, let him look at a few replays and decide if the contact warrants negating a goal or not. If he’s unsure, you go with the old standard – stick with the call that was made on the ice.

Get the point system squared away

Easier said than done, but first you’ve got to start with adjusting the 2-1-0 point system to a 3-2-1-0. As in, 3 (regulation win), 2 (OT/shootout win), 1 (OT/shootout loss), 0 (regulation loss). This way three points are given out every game, making them all equal. It makes no sense to watch your division rivals split three points when you crushed a team that same night and only got two. The only reason the NHL hasn’t adopted this far-more logical point scale is because the standings don’t look as tight (because they aren’t), so they think fans will lose interest when their team is out of it earlier.

Personally, I’d prefer watching a fair league than a close one.

Go back to making the “puck over the glass” call subjective

This seems like such common sense I can’t believe I’m writing it. The reason shooting the puck over the glass is a penalty is because it was believed players would simply flip the puck out of play when they got tired and needed to change. This is a pretty recognizable play. Even if it was occasionally called wrong, you’d be a lot better off then randomly penalizing players who had the puck flip up on them at the last minute. It’s a totally random “oops” to punish, considering how many mistakes happen in a hockey game.

If you still want to encourage guys to keep to the puck in play, keep it so they can’t change lines after going over the glass. I do think they want to encourage guys to keep the puck lower (to avoid fan injury and keep the pace of play up), so something like limiting them from changing is at least a start.

Let’s sort out OT then shut up about it

There’s never going to be consensus about the right way to sort out – some people like ties, some want a winner and a loser – but as long as we’ve decided to go with “find a result” (which I’m in favor of), let’s pin this down, then stop discussing it.

It’s great when games end in overtime because some development of hockey has to take place. Defending, reading plays, y’know, hockey stuff. I’m a huge, huge fan of 3-on-3 – man, it is so, so fun – but it doesn’t seem like GMs are down for it. I’d like to see them put it in place in the ECHL and AHL, and make a call with real information, not guesswork, because I have a pretty good hunch how that’ll play out.

But if they aren’t okay with that, at least expand OT to eight minutes, and have teams switch sides to deal with the long change. It’s compromise I’m not pleased to be making, but man, five minutes is clearly not good enough, and the extra few minutes isn’t going to ruin any player or fan.