Ways to Increase Goal Scoring in the NHL

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2013

Reducing the size of goalie pads might increase NHL scoring.
Reducing the size of goalie pads might increase NHL scoring.Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

There's a belief that fans are not happy with the current state of the game.

In particular, there's a school of thought that there's simply not enough scoring in hockey.

After a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season, the game returned and there were significantly more goals scored. Teams averaged 2.57 goals per game in 2003-04; that figure reached a shocking 3.08 in 2005-06.

The NHL thought that it had goal-scoring up to an acceptable level. No, it was not at the 4.01 level it reached in 1981-82 (think Wayne Gretzky at the peak of his powers), but it was at least over the 3.00 mark.

However, the NHL has not reached that level again. Goal scoring slipped all the way to 2.75 goals per game last year. Through the first half of the 2013 season, each team scores an average of 2.80 goals per game.

While many believe the game is fine as it stands, there are changes that could be considered to increase scoring.

The most radical suggestion is to increase the size of the six-foot by four-foot net. That's been the standard size of an NHL goal for decades and the improvement made by goaltenders over the years has changed the ability of top goal-scorers to put the puck in the net.

But changing the sacred net size simply rubs hockey people the wrong way. Baseball is not going to change the 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitching mound to home plate. The NFL is not going to change 10 yards for a first down. The NBA is not going to change the 10-foot height of the rim, even though this suggestion has also been made.

Similarly, the last thing the NHL and its fans seem to want is a larger goal.

Giving the NHL a wider rink similar to the ones used in Europe could give offensive stars the opportunity to put their creativity on display and make athleticism and speed greater factors.

The NHL rink is 85 feet wide while European rinks are 100 feet wide. This makes for a different game that involves more skating and less physical play.

While it would seem to improve scoring opportunities, this idea has never been popular in NHL circles.

Reducing the size of goaltending equipment is often discussed and would appear to have a dramatic impact on a goalie's ability to make a save as well as his attitude when throwing his body in front of the puck.

If goalie pads were reduced in length and width, shooters would appear to have a much greater chance at putting the puck in the net.

The danger of making such a change would be increased injury risk since smaller pads would seemingly reduce protection for the netminders.

The NHL limits goalie pads to 11 inches in width, and that's quite a bit wider than the pads worn three decades ago.

Change pad width to nine inches and that could reduce the number of pucks that goaltenders could save.

Getting rid of the trapezoid area could also help.

Originally, the trapezoid rule was put in to increase scoring. By keeping the goalies out of the corners of the rink, it was thought that offensive players would have a better opportunity to the get to the puck before defenders and scoring opportunities would increase. But that has not happened.

By allowing goalies to skate into the trapezoid areas, two things happen. Goalies make mistakes playing the puck and goals are created.

Also, goalies who can skate and handle the puck can make passes that set their own teams up for offensive chances.

The NHL doesn't want to take radical steps like increasing the size of the nets or the width of the rink.

However, reducing pad size could have at least a small impact on increasing scoring.