What would make the NHL better? This question is asked almost every summer as fans dissect different ways the NHL can improve its on-ice product. Specifically, which rules should the NHL introduce or abolish in order to take the sport to the next level?
The list of changes below is far from complete. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
Delay of Game – Puck Over Glass
When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick) the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. When the puck is shot into the players’ bench, the penalty will not apply. When the puck is shot over the glass ‘behind’ the players’ bench, the penalty will be assessed.
This rule is ridiculous and you can find plenty of long, strong cases online as to why it’s a dreadful rule. The infamous Puck Over Glass penalty is a constant point of contention. Isn’t a two-minute penalty a bit too harsh for firing the puck over the glass in your own zone, usually accidentally?
Transform the call from a two-minute penalty to an icing call. Problem solved. Some may argue that players will take advantage and fire the puck out on a regular basis. In that case, which seems like an outlier, give the official the ability to hand out a misconduct should it become obvious that a team is firing the puck over the glass repeatedly.
Intent to Blow
When the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle.
You either blew the whistle or you didn’t. It’s as simple as that. Introducing Intent to Blow allows for an entirely different level of subjectivity. We’ve seen dozens of examples of the puck crossing the line, a whistle blowing and the goal being waved off because the official had the intention of blowing the play dead. The issue is that the play wasn’t blown dead yet and the puck crossed the line before the play was halted.
The other insane aspect of the Intent to Blow rule is that it can not be reviewed. All potential scoring plays are reviewed, but the one that usually costs teams the most isn’t. That’s NHL logic for you.
Make this play one that can be reviewed or ditch the line that says play can be blown dead even if it hasn’t been blown dead yet. The official should have the whistle at his lips in these situations, so it’s time to eliminate the imaginary whistles in the Intent to Blow rule.
This is pretty closely connected with the Intent to Blow section above, but the NHL can do a lot more to get pivotal plays correct. Whether this means a Coach’s Challenge or allowing more plays to be reviewed, the league is in an easy position to make sure big blunders don’t happen. Adding or expanding video review in certain areas of the game shouldn’t lead to big delays considering the league already has an expansive review system. A team shouldn’t lose because an official didn’t see a puck clearly hit the netting above the glass.
Diving / Embellishment
Any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.
A goalkeeper who deliberately initiates contact with an attacking player other than to establish position in the crease, or who otherwise acts to create the appearance of other than incidental contact with an attacking player, is subject to the assessment of a minor penalty for diving / embellishment.
The NHL’s entire stance on diving and embellishing needs work. There’s a lot of simulation happening in front of the officials and – to make matters worse – the league doesn’t discipline the guilty parties with fines or suspensions, effectively allowing the acting to continue. Certain players and goaltenders (you know who they are) continue to give the NHL a bad image with all of the theatrics.
It may be difficult to determine if a player dove during the frantic pace of an NHL game, but that’s where the league can review plays after the game and hand out fines to those guilty of embellishment.
It’s time to make overtime a little bit more interesting. You can debate shootouts for days, but let’s take a step back and tackle the issue that mostly uneventful overtime periods are the reason so many games are decided by the skills competition. A longer overtime and fewer players should result in more goals and more victories decided without the shootout. You could also adjust the point structure, but it’s doubtful the NHL will introduce a system which causes bad teams to be out of the hunt earlier in the year.
The AHL will be testing the longer OT and 3-on-3 play this season, so it’s possible we may see a change in the NHL at some point in the near future.
Hits to the Head
A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered.
The actual rule as it’s written isn’t bad. The issue here lies with consistency. Officials on the ice aren’t calling identical checks the same way and the NHL’s Safety Department continues to hand out different punishments for similar crimes. Call it the same way and enforce it the same way and there won’t be any confusion. As is, there’s far too much gray area and serious injuries continue to occur because the penalties and fines/suspensions aren’t steep enough to prevent them. Consistency is one of the worst issues when it comes to NHL officiating and it’s never more apparent than when it’s dealing with hits to the head.
A goalkeeper shall not play the puck outside of the designated area behind the net. This area shall be defined by lines that begin six feet (6’) from either goal post and extend diagonally to points twenty-eight feet (28’) apart at the end boards. Should the goalkeeper play the puck outside of the designated area behind the goal line, a minor penalty for delay of game shall be imposed. The determining factor shall be the position of the puck. The minor penalty will not be assessed when a goalkeeper plays the puck while maintaining skate contact with his goal crease.
Whether it’s increasing the size or abandoning the concept completely, something needs to be done about the trapezoid. The infamous geometric shape was instituted to deal with Martin Brodeur, but there’s been an argument made that injuries may be prevented by allowing goalies to handle the puck in a larger area around the net. A goalie could handle and play a puck, preventing his defenseman from absorbing a big hit from an opposing forward.
The opposite view to this change would say that games would turn into tennis matches, but that seems to be a bit extreme.