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Thursday, August 7, 2008

If you could change 5 things...

...in the NHL what would they be?

Here are mine:

1. I'd rename the conferences and divisions back to their old names (i.e. Campbell and Prince of Wales Conferences, Adams/Norris/Patrick/Smythe divisions). I don't despise Bettman like a lot of people but I've never liked the fact that he changed these unique and classic Conference and Division names with history to NBA-esque geographical names. Sometimes the NHL tries to hard to be like someone else instead of being proud of who they are and their history.

2. I'd make players serve their full penalty minutes for all penalties regardless if a goal is scored or not.

3. I'd commission an investigation into televising hockey games from North to South. If you've ever noticed that in hockey video games the view is always North to South which provides a much better view of the play. This has always made me wonder why the NHL doesn't look heavily into technology that could accomplish the same for live hockey games. I'm not just talking about mounting a camera behind the net either -- I'm thinking some kind of rail system on remote (or with a person) that can move behind a net and up and over the play as it moves North and South.

4. I would set a mandatory agreement deadline for all CBA matters that if unresolved by said deadline a 3rd party will make a decision. This should prevent any future work stoppages.

5. The most controversial one of all - I would either 1. make bigger nets or 2. increase the size of the ice or both. Players have evolved in size and speed along with their equipment. Rule changes have been implemented to try to open up the game with mixed results. Its time to increase the playing and scoring areas to evolve with them.

Discuss - what would you do? Itsthe offseason so have some fun with it -- nothing is off limits.

-LTL

8 comments:

Matt said...

1) One final expansion. I don't care if it's into the Western US or another Canadian city, but 30 teams is routinely just AWKWARD for scheduling purposes. There's obviously guys like Bruckheimer and Balsille who want to own teams. Let's give them the chance, create 2 conferences of 16 split into 4 divisions of 4 teams. Shuffle the grouping as needed and bam! Suddenly I bet a lot of scheduling and travel headaches would be reduced.

2) This is already kinda being done, but bring goalie equipment into line with what is required for safety and performance, but not artificially improving the goalie's ability to close off the net or block shots. Compare Martin Brodeur's current pads to his pads from, say, the 95 finals, or even pads from guys in the late 80s to get an idea of what I am talking about.

I know that shots are harder and faster, but it's not like materials science stood still for protective gear, either.

3) A removal of the NHL commissioner, with a new commissioner to be appointed by the BOG. While I'll be the first to say that Bettman did a great job FOR THE OWNERS during the lockout, I feel that a lot of his decisions have hurt the game and the fans in the long term, and I'm very concerned about how the next round of CBA negotiations could go. The NHLPA already swept their decks for a fresh start with Kelley. I think that the NHL might benefit from the same. Fresh faces and voices approaching some of the shared issues might well lead to new and better solutions.

4) More cross-training of NHL refs. One of my biggest complaints, year over year, is that Bill McCreary will whistle you for interference on a play, while Don Van Massenhoven is on the other end of the ice and lets the exact same play go by without a peep 10 minutes later. Refs are better since the lockout, but there's still a lot of inconsistency from official to official, and night to night. More cross-training between officials and the head of officiating would, I think, help. Even if it meant taking up a few weeks of their offseason, getting them all onto a rink or into a classroom and going through practical demonstrations and discussions of everything, I believe the game would be better for it.

5) Shuffle the conference alignments. If we add two more teams (see #1), let's shuffle some of those conference alignments to try and reduce travel stress and situations where teams like Detroit, Columbus, Anaheim, or Vancouver are just forced to accept a 6-7 game road trip every year as a matter of fact. There's probably no perfect solution, but I bet it could be improved. Travel is still one of the bigger complaints you hear from coaches and players. That should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

I've been saying that games should be televised North/South for a long time now. That is how the game is played, yet we view it east/west. North/south viewing would allow us to see the line changes taking place as well as the plays developing and how teams get back into their defensive posture. Anytime I bring a new fan to the game they are stunned at how often they change lines. You miss out on all that on tv.

1) I wouldn't change the ice size at all, but I would change the size of the neutral zone. I would bring the blue line closer to the tops of the circles (where it used to be) creating a wider neutral zone and a smaller offensive zone.

This would create more 'chaos' in the offensive zone and make the plays and the ability of the point man to handle the puck far more critical. The point man has too much room to move right now which forces the forward covering him play super-conservatively simply because there is too much ground to cover. If everyone was closer together, there would be more 1 on 1's in different areas of the ice. It would potentially create more and quicker offense. It would also add to the physicality of the game.

2) Go back to the one ref system OR make it so that the ref nearest to the play makes the call and not the guy standing at center ice! Nothing is more irritating when the guy at center calls a 'penalty' that occurs in the very corner that the other ref has his eyes glued to.

3) Embellishing of hooking calls: when a player squeezes the opponents stick between his body and his forearm to force a hooking call. Start handling these guys as they do divers. Penalties, fines, suspensions.

4) Go back to wooden sticks and smaller gear for all players, not just goalies. Players are bigger, faster, stronger these days and their gear is growing at the same pace. Shoulder pads are too big and too hard which is helping increase the number of head injuries. If there was a mandated size, you then level the playing field to a degree.

Wooden sticks would slow down the velocity of the shots and would make a case for a. the ability to go back to smaller goalie gear and b. the lighter sticks have been attributed to shoulder and groin injuries. Guys can move them faster because they are lighter, but because of that the extra force/vibration transfers into the player and over time, causes a weakening in the shoulders and sometimes will travel to the groin.

5) Divide the conferences into a North and South conference instead of East and west. It would make the travel time for each team more level and also allow fans to see more teams across the nation.

WALLY said...

I like the idea of going back to the old conference names. Bettman will have a hell of a time categorzing a new team if the league ever expands out of North America. What division is the new Japanese team? Or Eastern European? The far east or sorta west divisions?

tom said...

LTL - love the camera idea. I agree that a rail system or even the cable mounted camera like the NFL uses for overhead angles would enhance the viewing experience. Good call! As for the conference naming, that to me is irrelevent but I'm not a traditionalist.

Matt - love the goalie gear comment and the expansion thoughts. Canada could use another team, so could Baltimore, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio, or even smaller hockey hot beds like North Dakota or Wisconsin.

1) I would like to eliminate the shoot out, and no ties either. Play each game out until there is a victor just like the playoffs.

2) I would shorten the preseason to maybe 2 games. Lengthen the regular season if you must keep the revenue stream but play less meaningless games. These guys are ready when they get to camp for the most part and lines are set. Preseason injuries ruin team momentum.

3) Find a way to make the season ticket affordable to the average citizen. The season is so long and the sheer volume of games mathematically excludes many from having the ability to enjoy an entire season ticket. Think of it like the airlines...lower the cost of admission and ding those that require the luxuries, such as food, beer, and jerseys. Some fresh thinking needs to go on here. The salary cap keeps expanding, which is great, but we all know that means ticket prices are going to go through the roof with it. With 41 games, average ticket costs need to be controlled or risk alienating the average fan.

4) Promote college hockey more to showcase the future stars of the NHL. College football does this best. The NFL draft is chock full of household names because of college football. Perhaps the NHL could work with the NCAA and Versus to get college hockey aired in order to create a rooting interest there. This would increase the sport's overall popularity = broaden the fan base = higher TV exposure and advertising dollars = less reliance on gate receipts.

5) Ban the $8 beer.

Douglas said...

LTL -- you're right on with the conference names and the rail-camera, although I think the rail-camera might be tough to implement.

I'm with "anon" about divying the conferences North/South, I've been on that bandwagon forever. It would be a good short-term solution to the travel problems... and anyway, travel isn't just a problem for the teams, it's a problem for fans. If Columbus played against more teams that are close to it (i.e. PITT), you would see more fan road trips and therefore higher ticket sales.

I agree with your "penalty continues after a scored goal" with the stipulation that they treat it like a fighting penalty at that point -- meaning, the power play ends, but the penalized player remains in the box.

As far as the shootout goes, I've argued with a buddy about how to change OT. He doesn't like it, but I say OT should be 5-0n-5, then 4-on-4, then 3-on-3 till a goal is scored. That way you don't have 90 minutes of OT, and a 3-on-3 is *still* more of a team effort than a shootout is. (My buddy doesn't like it because he says a 3-on-3 is too different from regular play, and therefore wouldn't determine the better team anymore than a shootout does.)

Anonymous said...

Bad example Matt, Marty Brodeur wears the smallest pads in the league.

Matt said...

Sure, but when his pads have still grown quite obviously over the years, being the smallest in the league is damning with faint praise.

LTL said...

I love the idea of going to a 4 on 4 to a 3 on 3 OT. I don't mind the shootout in the regular season but would like to see the game end on a real hockey play if at all possible. I also understand the TV limits. Perhaps 4 on 4 for 5 minues and then a 3 on 3 for another 5 and then a shootout if neccesary. I prefer a shootout over ties though.

I also like the idea of 1 minutes penalties in OT.

I'm also totally for increasing the shedule to 82 games so that everyone gets a home at home and eliminating some pre-season games.

Anyhow - some very good ideas in here!

-LTL