At the All Star Game Commissioner, Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly held a press conference to chat about the pressing league issues. The main topics were player and puck tracking (which is going to be awesome), CBA negotiations, and the scoring increase and parity in the league. One thing that wasn’t touched on was rules of the game.
Recent rule changes like the change in goalie pads, the implementation of a 2-minute penalty for a failed offside challenge, and if we go back a bit further, the trapezoid have impacted the game heavily, but there are still many things the league can do to improve the sport as a whole.
That’s where I come in. If you don’t know much about me my favorite part of all of sports is the rules. I love sports rulebooks, maybe even more than I love the games themselves. I’ve read the NHL rulebook cover to cover three times and I intend on doing it again every single offseason that I cover hockey. In doing so, my mind is always triggered to minor and major rule changes I’d love to see enacted by the NHL. Today, I present five, starting with the least invasive one and moving up to the crazier ones.
Rule Change 1
When a period ends with a team on the power play, the face-off to open the following period should be taken from the offensive zone of the team on the man advantage.
Currently, all start of period draws are taken at center ice. Normally, that would make sense, but when a team is on a power play, the end of the period is actually a bonus to the team who committed the penalty. It’s a free zone exit when the game-clock hits 0:00. Why? Instead, if there is still time on the power play clock, the draw should occur in the offensive zone, like how most power plays start. It’s a simple rule change, and it makes way too much sense not to enact as soon as possible.
Rule Change 2
For the purpose of offside, the blue line should act as a vertical plane.
In order to enter the zone properly, the puck must fully cross the blue line before every player. To determine this, the league uses players’ skates physically touching the ice. It leads to many incredibly close calls along the blue line in which even on super slow-mo we can’t tell when the player lifted his foot. Throw that in the garbage, instead, view the blue line like the endzone in football. If any portion of a players body (with the exception of their stick) is even with the vertical plane created by the blue line they will be determined to have not yet entered the zone.
It will make calls on the ice easier for linesman and it will make reviews much easier for the Situation Room in Toronto. It’s a simple change and will be a bit tricky to write into the rules, but it’s a good change that will help the game in the long term.
Rule Change 3
EITHER Allow the full two minutes to run off the clock before allowing a player out of the penalty box (even if a team scores) OR Enforce icing during power plays
I’m fine with either of the two options being enacted but I’m partial to the first one. Why let a team off the hook when they’ve committed a penalty? The best power play in the NHL scores at just under 30% where the worst is converting at 13%. Thus, the chances that a team scores twice inside of a two-minute penalty remains fairly low. But, power plays are the most exciting time of a hockey game (aside from 3-on-3 OT), so why cut them short?
The other option is to enforce icing. It doesn’t make much sense as to why the rules change in a favor of a team who has committed an infraction. Oh, you screwed up, we’re going to penalize you, but also change the rules so it’s not as bad. WTF? It would make penalty killing much more difficult, which would increase the number of PP goals, and it would encourage coaches to remove their goalies more often on power play situations as teams would no longer be able to simply shoot the puck at the empty net without fear of repercussions.
Rule Change 4
Enact a playoff “draft” allowing the top teams to select their opponent
This is one that should probably be enacted in every sport in North America as it is a better way to reward regular season success. Here’s how it would work. The two conferences would still have the eight playoff teams selected the same way they currently are (top three by division and two wild cards). Each conference would only be allowed to play teams in their own conference until the Final. The division winner in each conference with the highest number of points will select their first-round opponent from any of the seven teams that have qualified for the playoffs. Then, if not selected by the previous team, the other division winner would get to select their opponent. The team with the highest point total that has not been selected would pick next until all four matchups are completed. The same process would occur in the second round as well allowing the team with the most points of the four remaining to choose from the other three.
For example, here’s how it would have looked last season.
- Nashville selects 5. Anaheim
- Vegas selects 7. Los Angeles
- Winnipeg selects 8. Colorado
- Minnesota vs. 6. San Jose
In the second round
- Nashville selects 6. San Jose
- Vegas vs. 3. Winnipeg
Imagine the TV show that would come with the selection of the teams before each round. The hatred teams would have for each other in being selected as the “easier” opponent. The fodder it would make for blogs, talk radio, and TV stations to discuss which matchup would be best for their respective teams. It would be amazing.
Plus, it does the most important thing North American sports fail at, it raises the value of the regular season.
Rule Change 5
Rework the scoring system as it relates to the standings
Win (Regulation/OT): 2 points
Win (Shootout): 1 point
Loss (Shootout): 0 points
Loss (OT): -1 point
Loss (Regulation): -2 points
In the end, the only major change is with overtime losses, as they would become a detriment, not a benefit. It would devalue the shootout, which is necessary as shootout is stupid. Like the current system, where games can be worth two or three points, this system allows games to be worth zero or one total points in the standings. Here’s how the Pacific would look using this scoring system.
- Calgary: 39 points
(33 Reg/OT wins, 0 SO wins, 2 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 12 Reg losses)
- Vegas: 26 points
(28 Reg/OT wins, 1 SO wins, 1 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 14 Reg losses)
- San Jose: 22 points
(29 Reg/OT wins, 0 SO wins, 3 SO losses, 4 OT losses, 16 Reg losses)
- Vancouver: 0 points
(22 Reg/OT wins, 1 SO wins, 3 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 22 Reg losses)
- Arizona: -5 points
(21 Reg/OT wins, 2 SO wins, 1 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 23 Reg losses)
- Edmonton: -8 points
(20 Reg/OT wins, 3 SO wins, 0 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 24 Reg losses)
- Los Angeles: -8 points
(19 Reg/OT wins, 1 SO wins, 1 SO losses, 3 OT losses, 22 Reg losses)
- Anaheim: -10 points
(18 Reg/OT wins, 3 SO wins, 2 SO losses, 7 OT losses, 21 Reg losses)
For reference, Tampa Bay would be leading the league with 49 points. Vegas would have amassed 46 points all of last season, but still would have won the division.
The biggest change in this system is the change in value on losses. A regulation loss is devastating and an OT loss is far from ideal. Currently, an OTL credits a team positively. We’ve all become so accustomed to it that it’s not even weird anymore, but think about that, a loss… is good. That shouldn’t be.
I understand how radical of a change this system would be, but it makes way more sense than the current one. Plus, crazy point swings could occur in short periods of time making teams feel closer to the race than they do in the current system.
Here’s an example. Say the Kings were to win three straight games while the Canucks were to lose three in a row in all in regulation. LA would move up to -2 points while Vancouver would move down to -6, a 10 point swing in a matter of a week. Under the current system, that swing would only be six.
The proverbial “four-point game” would actually literally become a four-point game for division matchups. It emphasizes winning and punishes teams for losing, isn’t that what we want?
The current system is messed up and the Ducks are living proof. They’ve lost nine more games than they’ve won, and they’ve won three of their 21 in shootout. How is 18 actual wins vs. 28 losses a good thing? Yet, under the current system, the Ducks sit just one point out of playoff position! Anaheim has 51 points in 51 games. Meanwhile, Columbus, who have won 28 of their 48 games have just 59 points. Columbus has lost only 20 times, while Anaheim has lost 30 and CBJ is just eight points ahead of ANA. In my system, CBJ would have 20 points while ANA would have -10. That’s a 30 point difference, which makes much more sense considering how well Columbus has played and how poorly Anaheim has.
Finally, hockey already uses negative numbers in its stat keeping in regards to +/-. This is simply bringing +/- to the standings. No other league has anything even close to this, but what other league rewards a team for losing?