Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NHL Thinking Outside The Box listed all the possible rule changes the NHL is experimenting with. Some are definitely outside the box. A few don't seem like bad ideas. Even though the league has taken drastic steps to increase scoring (i.e. the trapezoid, no change icings, and so on) they seem to not be satisfied.

Every year the NHL does a Research Development and Orientation Camp. In that camp, they take up and coming players (the players they are using) to test different proposed rule changes to see if the changes will increase the competitiveness of the game.  While some of the ideas seem far fetched, others are taken a bit more seriously. The rule changes are brought about by players, GMs and more.

All the proposed rule changes being tested are highlighted in bold type.

Let's take a look at some of the experimental rule changes the league is considering this year at camp. First is a look to improve faceoffs.

The first is having three faceoff dots, one in each zone, down the center of the rink. It sounds a little out there, but the thinking is it keeps the action to the center of the ice and will cut down on whistles. Imagine a face off literally in front of the your net. It would eliminate the face off circles that flank the net in the zone and do away with the offside faceoff dots.

Brendan Shanahan, project leader of the RDO camp, showed some interest in this rule according to a article:
"I'm curious to see how players and coaches react to those faceoffs in the zone when the faceoff is happening right in the heart of the slot," Shanahan said.
Next is a variation of the faceoff where a whistle starts play rather than the traditional puck drop. It is sort of like pick up hockey rules. Time spent setting up for faceoffs would be cut and the action would be more continuous.

If a player is deemed to have committed a face-off violation, he will be required to move back and keep his skates behind a "penalty line" (a foot further back) to take the faceoff. I much rather have the player tossed like it is now. Adding yet another line seems a bit too much.

Caps' bench boss Bruce Boudreau also weighed in on this rule in an article:
"As a former centerman, I found them to be the most interesting thing," Boudreau said. "Nobody got kicked out, so it speeds it up that way. The only thing I worry about is I think, in the neutral zone it's great, but in the offensive zone it sure could lead to some goals. You're winning clean draws back to the slot, and for our team that's (Alex Ovechkin) and (Alexander Semin) because there is no real stick battles. They're getting it flat before a guy could get out there. If you want offense, that's good, but I'm thinking on the defensive end. We're going to be losing those faceoffs, too, and it might be (Ilya) Kovalchuk blasting it in."
The league also wants to find a solution to icings and players getting hurt. as they race for the puck as the defending player has to touch up for the call.

They will be trying both no-touch icing and a hybrid icing rule, where referees can blow the play dead prior to the defending player touching the puck. While the no-touch will be the same rule used in international play, the hybrid rule is something I am more willing to accept.

The linesman will have the athority to rule whether there is a chance for the offensive player to beat out the defensive one for the puck to negate the icing call. If there is no chance, the ref will simply blow the whistle like a no-touch call. If there is a close battle for the puck, the linesman has the choice to not blow the whistle and let the race continue. It also allows more of a chance that a linesman could decide the outcome of a game. The practice is currently in use in the USHL.

The hybrid rule seems to be gaining some support from GMs and players alike. It could be a rule that could be implemented soon.

A couple rule changes seem a bit unnecessary. Like the following two.

The league could have a second referee located off the playing surface. Perferably in the mascot suit.

Another rule that doesn't make much sense is not allowing a team to change lines after it commits an offside. We already do this for icing, pretty soon we won't allow either team to change except for on the fly.

Overtime seems to be a good subject that everyone has an opinion on. The league is proposing a couple of changes there too.

Like having three minutes of 4 on 4, followed by three minutes of 3 on 3 and finally three minutes of 2 on 2. Not sure I am into this at all. It could get to the point where it looks more like a practice than a game.

Having five players from each team participate in the shoot Out and they shall proceed in such order as the coach selects. If it's tied at the end of the shootout, it goes to sudden death shooting and no one shall shoot twice until all eligible shooters have shot. This would just be an increase from 3 to 5. I don't see the need to drag it on anymore than it has to. This isn't soccer futbol.

One change I do like is in 4 on 4 overtime, switch ends so teams have longer changes in the extra frame. It makes sense that the teams switch ends once more for the overtime period. Shanahan brought up a good point about it in the article:
"To have four-on-four with a long change could create more of a challenge for coaches and for players," Shanahan said. "It's the end of the game. They're tired, mental mistakes can happen and that long change could create more out-numbered attacks."
 And, of course the changes to the landscape.

Like narrowing the shallowness of the net by four inches to create more ice behind the net and enable more wrap-around attempts. Not sure how I feel about this one. The net is a fixture that hasn't changed much since the league started. Narrow nets might just look stupid from an aesthetic point of view.

Another landscape change would be increasing the size of the crease proportionally in all directions by 3 inches. To add more protection for the goaltenders? I thought we were just going to limit pad size.

The changes will not likely happen anytime soon. Unless all the GMs and owners get on the same page about one or two particular rule changes. The icing change is one I can see happening sooner rather than later. Also some of the changes to overtime could be good additions to the game. The delicate balance needs to be maintained however between the new and the traditional.

At the moment, I think the game is doing just fine.

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