NHL looks at tweaking rules
Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
|Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash scores the winning shootout goal against Canadiens goaltender Carey Price at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Que., Dec. 6, 2011. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters)
BOCA RATON, FLA. - There might not be a bigger disconnect between the people who run and the NHL and their customers than there is when it comes to the shootout.
The hockey purists wrinkle their nose at the so-called “skills competition.”
Hockey fans love it.
“All the research that we do on a regular basis tells us overwhelmingly our fans like the shootout,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during the all-star festivities in Ottawa. “We’re looking at numbers in the 70 and 80% approval range which on any question is an extraordinarily high number.
“Anecdotally, I try to go to a game at least once in every building and when you see an overtime game that goes to the shootout, the reaction in the building is sensational. Everybody’s on their feet.”
But that's not stopping people in the game from trying to find ways to take the emphasis off the shootout (we've already seen it with shootout wins not counting when it comes a team's win total for the purpose of breaking ties in the standings).
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has floated the idea of having five minutes of 3-on-3 play after the 4-on-4 on overtime session to try and have games decided by playing hockey. You could argue you are still having a limited number of players determining the outcome of the game - a complaint about the shootout - but at least 3-on-3 is still “hockey.”
The thinking is there would be so much room on the ice, a missed rush at one end would almost certainly result in an odd-man rush the other way and a strong likelihood of a goal being scored.
While it might not be on the official agenda at the GMs meetings which get underway Monday, it's expected it will be a talking point among the GMs.
It's expected the general managers will also talk about a hybrid icing rule which would help cut down on the dangerous races that have resulted in some catastrophic injuries (think about Al MacInnis' dislocated hip or the broken femur suffered by then Minnesota Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster when he got tangled up with San Jose's Torrey Mitchell.)
A hybrid icing rule would see the whistle blown if the defenceman had a lead going back for the puck at a pre-determined point, say the top of the face-off circle or the hash marks. If the forward was going to win the race, play would continue.
Also on the agenda is expected to be discussion on the future of the trapezoid, which prevents goaltenders from handling the puck in the corners (maybe it would help defencemen from getting crushed if the goaltenders could help them by playing the puck in the corners again).
The GMs are also expected to talk about the ability to share salaries when making trades, an idea first floated by Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. If a team could keep back some salary of a traded player, it would loosen up the market and perhaps create more fan interest (not to mention save the trade deadline show panels from having to breakdown an Andrei Kostitsyn trade for three hours because nothing else is happening).