Debate rages on

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

There's no doubt the NHL has changed for the better. But as the governors discuss the league's finances and direction in Scottsdale, Ariz., there are bound to be arguments about some aspects of the new era.

Differences of opinion exist even in the Calgary Flames dressing room, where players have had more than 30 games to test-drive the new system.

Debate over the shootout is one that may never be put to rest.

"I wonder about the point for the shootout," said Flames defenceman Rhett Warrener, who believes the game has changed for the better, overall.

"I think a shootout's fun and they're exciting and it's good for the game but the point, it's going to cost teams a playoff spot somewhere down the line. It's a team game, it's always been a team game and that seems pretty individualistic to me."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla, part of the competition committee assembled to give players a voice in rule changes, takes an opposing stance on the issue.

"I don't really agree with that," Iginla said of the hockey purist's point of view shootouts shouldn't decide the outcome of a game. "Some people say that it's a gimmick. I don't see that.

"Penalty shots are part of our game. It's not like we're flipping pucks into a bucket to see who wins. It's part of our game. A penalty shot can decide a game and that's what shootouts are.

"I just like the idea of, when you play in a big game and a division rival and all those different things, there's something settled. Ties left it so unsettled as a fan and a player."

Iginla and Warrener agree, though, when it comes to the removal of the redline. Warrener likes the option of a long pass to spring one of the forwards on a fast break.

"It's opened things up," Warrener said. "You think about it now, it was kind of silly to have that rule in there before."

Iginla, an occasional recipient of those breakout bombs, says the package is more attractive than it was before the lockout.

"Personally, I really like the changes," he said. "I like the no redline. I find the game's a lot more fun to watch on TV. I'm a hockey fan. I enjoyed it before but I think it's even more enjoyable now."

The obstruction crackdown, despite an initial rash of penalties, is the rule change with the most impact, according to Iginla.

"The speed in the neutral zone, there's more. I hope they continue in the neutral zone to be really tight with calling it and letting guys show their speed and skill. It was amazing before how you could make up for a lot of things with your stick and hook."

Another area of controversy comes as a direct result of the increased speed. Defencemen and goaltenders are having a hard time protecting themselves with forwards bearing down on them at full steam. Miikka Kiprusoff has been harassed in his crease a number of times.

"That's one thing I think was really bad early in the season," said Kiprusoff. "Then guys like Martin Brodeur were talking about it and it did get better. Lately, it's been getting back a little bit. That's one thing they should take better care of."

Warrener is usually dishing out heavy hits but has been on the receiving end along the end boards this season while fishing for loose pucks. He has also had a hard time keeping the opposition off Kiprusoff.

"You can't protect the goalie, you can't protect yourself a lot of times," said Warrener. "We can't stop the guy from going to the net. You do that, you're going to be in the box. If they're not going to allow us to do that, it should be automatic that any time there's a bump on the goalie, the guy should be getting one."


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