A shortened 2012-13 NHL season has the potential to be one of the most exciting years in recent memory, and there are a few changes that the league can make to create even more excitement for the fans.
Some of these changes are small, but some are more drastic and would affect the game quite a bit. Let's look at 10 ways the league could make the new season more competitive and interesting.
Author's Note: I do not think that the NHL should make all of these changes. They are, for the most part, suggestions to consider. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Overtime changes were one major outcome of the last lockout, and for the most part, the changes made have been good for the game.
The elimination of ties was a great idea, and even though there are many people who dislike the shootout, it does add another level of excitement to the end of competitive games.
Right now, overtime in the regular season is 4v4, which creates a lot of offense and exciting play since there is more room for the players to skate.
Making overtime 3v3 would create could more excitement and help avoid shootouts.
To make the NHL more competitive, the shootout should be eliminated.
Important points in the playoff race should not be awarded to teams just because they have better penalty shot takers and/or an elite goaltender who can dominate in penalty-shot situations.
Wins should be earned on the ice in real-game situations, and not from 1v1 battles between a skater and a goalie.
If we eliminate the shootout, then you need to have continuous overtime. In this instance, overtime periods should be 20 minutes long, just like a normal OT period during the playoffs.
There's absolutely no reason for teams to earn one point just because they made it to overtime.
Too often we see teams play conservative hockey in the final minutes of the third period just to ensure they earn at least one point from the game. This makes the most exciting time of the game less fun for the fans.
Regulation wins should also be worth more than shootout victories since ending a game with 1v1 battles doesn't really prove which team is more deserving of the extra point.
If the shootout is eliminated, the NHL should make all wins worth two points and eliminate the OT loss point. If your team loses at any point in the game, it doesn't deserve any kind of reward.
Removing the instigator penalty isn't a new idea, but it's a change that has to be made in the near future.
If you want to protect players and make the "rats" pay for their dirty play, you have to remove the instigator penalty.
With player safety becoming a bigger issue in the NHL over the last few years, this is one rule change that should happen immediately.
Goaltenders should be allowed to play the puck anywhere they want, which means the trapezoid area in the corners behind the goal lines should be removed.
Allowing goalies to play the puck would help the game flow a bit better since we wouldn't have to wait for defensemen to come play the puck.
It's also unlikely that scoring would go down as a result of this change.
Goaltenders should be allowed to make contact with opposing players if they are outside of the crease, but at the same time, players should not have to evade goaltenders if they are aggressive or choose to play a puck behind the net.
A lot of goalies are tough players, and probably wouldn't mind getting hit or having to deliver a hit every once in a while.
Aggressive goaltenders such as Tim Thomas would give fans plenty of excitement each night, and goalies like Mike Smith wouldn't be able to earn their team a power play by flopping after contact with an opponent.
These changes would likely have a major impact on how the game is played, but they would probably make the game a bit more interesting and physical.
Teams in Major League Baseball and the NBA wear white jerseys at home, and the NHL should too.
The league made the switch from white to dark home jerseys about a decade ago and would be wise to change back.
Teams should get rid of their alternate jerseys, many of which are ugly, and just go back to wearing white at home.
Very few things bother fans more than watching their team give up a power-play goal because the opposing team dove or embellished to draw a penalty.
The NHL should punish divers using the following steps:
- Players who dive are given a written warning
- The next dive results in a fine
- More diving results in a one-game suspension
- Any more dives result in two-game suspensions for each dive
In addition to these rules, the NHL should make diving an official "diving" stat so people can see who dives the most, which would embarrass these players and hopefully persuade them to not dive or embellish anymore.
If a team wins a division in the NHL, it is rewarded with a Top Three seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Winning a division, in many cases, isn't very impressive.
The Florida Panthers won the Southeast Division last year with 94 points and earned the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Florida's 94 points were the 6th highest total in the East.
This wasn't fair to teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, who both earned more than 100 points despite playing in a much tougher division, yet finished fourth and fifth in the East, respectively.
The NHL would benefit if the top-three playoff spots were decided by point totals only, and not by who wins divisions.