Coming out of the 2004-05 lockout season, the NHL implemented new rules and procedures to help raise scoring, emphasize skill and speed, gain new fans and most importantly, regain the fans lost due to the cancelled season.
Some of the new additions included a new standard of play that cracked down on holding and hooking penalties, a no-play zone for goalies (the trapezoid), new icing and penalty procedures and the biggest of the post-lockout additions, the shootout.
A few of these changes have made a positive impact, such as the new icing and penalty procedures in which the face-off following an icing or penalty call is automatically in the offending team's zone. In the case of an icing call, the offending team cannot make a like change. This gives the offensive team an instant advantage and leads to more scoring.
Some, such as the goaltenders' no-play zone, have had a limited impact. Unless you're Marty Turco.
But as the 2010-11 season has progressed, there has been a clamoring for another overhaul of the rules.
The NHL tested some of the new rule propositions in a series of scrimmages held before the season began.
A few new rules being tested included:
—A bigger crease
—A verification goal line (a second line set behind the goal line)
—Wider blue lines
—An off-ice referee
—A new overtime format (to be addressed later)
The NHL conducts these rule-testing scrimmages every year, but some rules are gaining momentum.
Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon proposed the idea of a coach's challenge at the GM's meeting this past November.
Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau is on board with the concept as well after his team was denied a chance at overtime in a December game against the Dallas Stars.
Jonathan Carlsson's game-tying goal was disallowed when the official decided that Alex Ovechkin interfered with goaltender, Andrew Raycroft. The replays showed the call on the ice may not have been the correct one, but it could not be reviewed (seen below).
Much like the NFL, coaches would have the ability to throw a challenge flag on the ice when they feel the officials have made the wrong call regarding the rewarding of a goal.
A challenge flag.
One thing that is amazing about sports is a thing called luck. When your team is on the lucky side of a call, it feels great knowing your team just got away with whatever it was. On the flip side, when your team gets wronged, your blood boils. As annoying as it is to see your team on the bad side of one of these calls, it's been a part of the game since its beginning in 1917.
Taking the power out of the official's hands would take the human element out of the game. Who wants to watch their sport be dictated by people located off the ice hundreds or thousands of miles away?
Hopefully no one.
Others in the NHL have set their minds on changing the overtime format.
The average fan that does not know the Xs and Os of the game attend and watch hockey games for three things: fights, hits and goals.
The fights and hits are almost guaranteed nightly, but goals are not.
The shootout was introduced after the lockout to be a fan-pleaser and has done a fine job in doing so.
It gives shooters an opportunity to show off skills that are not seen in the course of regulation time, gives relatively unknown players a chance to make a name for themselves (Jussi Jokinen) as well as grants goalies the window to show their ability to shut down shooters when all the pressure is on them.
Before the shootout was implemented, once overtime ended, the game was over and a tie was recorded in the books.
The shootout gave fans an opportunity to not only see a team go home with a win, but also see some scoring.
Now many are calling for a complete overtime overhaul.
Although many alternatives have been presented, there is one idea that seems to be gaining the most steam.
This idea completely changes the overtime procedure from a five minute, four-on-four sudden death period followed by a shootout to three minutes of four-on-four, three minutes of three-on-three, three minutes of two-on-two, followed by a three man shootout. But with the skill of the modern-day NHL player, a two-on-two period would in essence, eliminate the shootout.
Most fans enjoy the shootout and doing this would most likely lead to a decrease in the NHL's already tiny fan base (NASCAR and soccer, yes soccer, has higher television rating, at times). The NHL cannot afford to take a risk like that.
Plus, anyone who claims the shootout is a gimmick cannot possibly believe this is the way to go.
This isn't pond hockey, it's the NHL.
On top of that, the shootout has given fans some of the best moments since the lockout such as Modano's final hurrah in Dallas (watch), the Philadelphia Flyers claiming the final seed for the 2009-2010 playoffs (watch) and the shootout master, the previously mentioned Jussi Jokinen (watch).
If the shootout is basically eliminated, moments like these would never be created.
Could the officiating be better? Absolutely.
Could some minor changes be made to better the quality of play? Yes.
But do we need to make such drastic changes so suddenly?
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