Top 10 Ways to Fix the National Hockey League
As the NHL nears the end of another season, the debate will begin this summer about potential changes to the game. Most of the alterations will likely come in the way of rule changes, but there could be a few more drastic changes to the game as well.
What can be done to ensure that the NHL continues to head down the right path, but without ruining some of the advancements the game has made since the lockout?
10. Back to the One-Referee System
Nothing pains NHL fans more than watching referees take over games. Everyone has their favorite targets to hate: Stephane Auger and Chris Lee usually top most fans’ lists.
The NHL instituted the two-referee system full-time back in 2001. They have tried it out in the AHL in part of the regular season and in the playoffs full-time to get referees some more experience.
The two-ref system has never been a home run, and some have said it deters the game. Four eyes might be better than two, but it also gives the refs more of a chance to ruin the flow of the game.
Go back to one referee and two linesmen. This should allow the best referees to get the most work instead of stretching out the talent pool.
9. A New Point System
The new system would obviously require a new point set-up.
This would be pretty simple. A win is a win. A tie is a tie. A loss is a loss.
A regulation win or overtime win (in either the four-on-four or three-on-three) means two points. A loss, in regulation or overtime, and you get no points. If you end up tied, you get a point.
As for a tie-breaker in the standings, the NHL made the right move by finally deviating from their standards and giving the tie-breaker to the team with the most regulation wins.
In this new system, that would stay the same. The team with the most regulation wins gets the tie-breaker.
8. Say Goodbye to the Shootout
Some things just have to change. After the lockout, the shootout was implemented to make games more exciting and to decide a winner. In the end, shootouts just are not exciting.
Certain fans will be biased because their teams are either good or bad at the shootout, but it seems no way to end a game. How can you go for three periods and overtime, and then decide the game on a skills competition? Eliminate the shootout by any means possible.
Yes, a tie may be like kissing your sister, but there’s no problem with a tie. In my opinion, a lot of great games over the past few seasons have been ruined by the shootout. If it ends in a tie, so be it.
If the NHL wants to reduce ties, go three minutes at four-on-four. If there is no winner, play three minutes at three-on-three.
Yes, it will mean a lot of open ice, but at least it won’t mean a shootout. If there’s no winner, there is no winner.
7. No Whites After Labor Day, or on the Road
Compared to everything else, this may seem minor. I don’t like white jerseys on the road. Bring the whites back home.
This would allow the fans to see more colors from the opposition instead of seeing white every time they come into the building.
Think about that: the fans see whatever colored jersey their team wears, and the whites of the other team. All. The. Time.
This was one change after the lockout that didn’t make sense, even if it is simply cosmetic.
6. Here Come the Rules Changes
Abolish the trapezoid behind the net, so the goaltenders can come out and play the puck. If the NHL is so concerned about dangerous collisions behind the goal, allowing the goalie free reign behind the net is essential to reduce these injuries.
So many of the dangerous collisions on icing touch-ups come from the fact that the goaltender must stand and watch as his teammate races back with the opposition because he can only play the puck in the restricted trapezoid.
It’s naïve to think that this would eliminate all of these injuries, but changing this rule would at least allow the NHL to see if it does cause an adjustment.
Another change? Make a final judgment on kicking the puck. There is simply too much gray area with this rule. What is a “distinct kicking motion”?
To be honest, after watching thousands of NHL games and seeing more than a handful involve close calls in the crease, I still don’t know what a “distinct kicking motion” is.
In my estimation, the best thing the NHL can do is either allow it or deny it. I would allow it. Anything off the skate is a good goal, even if the player kicks it like he’s Adam Vinatieri. Take out the guesswork.
One more change: get rid of the delay of game. It was a novel concept at the time, but it has now devolved into a guessing game between the referees.
Did the player hit it out on purpose? Did it tip another stick? Was he in his zone? Just say no to the delay of game and kiss it goodbye. It’s frustrating to watch anybody sit in the penalty box for flipping a puck out of play.
5. Versus: It Works
Coming out of the lockout, putting the league on a network that not many people knew they had on their cable lineup might not have been the greatest of ideas.
It was an opportunity to build though, as the NHL knew they could take a chance because it would take a couple of years to build any sort of momentum after the lockout.
It’s worked. After its slow beginning, lackluster graphics and games package, and poor content, Versus has stepped up its game.
The graphics are visually appealing, the high-definition picture is crisp, the games are delivered more often and the studio shows have improved.
Now, the NHL has extended itself with Versus for two more years, upping the regular season package from 54 games to 90, getting exclusive rights to the semi-finals (thus eliminating local broadcasters) and taking Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Versus and the NHL have worked out pretty well together. It’s not a perfect arrangement, and it’s not ESPN, but the NHL has to be pretty happy with the way that things have worked out with the cable network.
4. The Winter Classic Is Pretty Cool, Now and Then
It’s become a pretty cool spectacle (no pun intended, certainly not after this year’s game), and the night game between Washington and Pittsburgh last season was pretty interesting.
That being said, the Winter Classic would be more classic if it wasn’t played as often. Make it once every two years.
Another option could be alternating one year in the U.S. and the next year in Canada. This year’s double-header of the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic was too much.
So, maybe one event every two years would work well.
3. The All-Star Game: It Means Nothing, and It Shows
In a relatively straight-forward way to put it, get rid of the All-Star Game.
It’s not hockey, it’s not meant to be hockey, and few players relish being there. The fantasy draft in this year’s All-Star Game may have spiced things up a bit, but it certainly did not generate an exciting hockey game.
The game itself is literally unwatchable, and anyone who enjoys it is probably not a hardcore hockey fan.
In the meantime, give the players some time off and let them relax for a few days. No practices, no meetings and no games.
Potentially replace the All-Star weekend with festivities in each team’s city such as a skills competition or fan event, but still give players a bit of a break if you are going to do something like that.
2. Make the Season Shorter
This season started in October. It will end in mid-June. If a team plays the maximum amount of playoff games (28), that means they will have played a 110-game schedule. This, my friends, is madness.
The schedule can be shortened to 74 games, giving players a bit more rest and a bit more juice for the playoffs.
How would it work? Keep the divisions as they are presently constituted (barring a geographical change for the Thrashers or Coyotes that would force a divisional change), and play 16 divisional games per season.
Five teams per division, each team plays their divisional foes twice at home and twice on the road.
Next, take care of the other 10 teams in your conference—two games against each, one home and one road. That gives you 36 games total.
Next, take care of the other conference—once at home and once on the road. Fifteen teams in the other conference gives you 30 games, and puts you at 66. With the remaining eight games, do a rotational intra-divisional setting within the conference.
With those remaining eight games to play with, the NHL can schedule potential intra-divisional rivalries such as Philadelphia-Boston or Vancouver-San Jose.
1. Take Me to Winnipeg!
By now, everyone may know that the Phoenix Coyotes will be locked in to another season of hockey in the desert. New developments say, however, that the Atlanta Thrashers might beat the Coyotes to Canada.
With two teams potentially in limbo now, the NHL has to handle this situation delicately. Why not move both?
If True North, the rumored buyer of the Thrashers, does indeed pick up the team and move them to Winnipeg, that doesn’t mean Phoenix is out of the woods yet. It just takes away a potential location for the team to go.
With the City of Glendale approving $25 million in losses to keep the team in the city for another season, they could still be in play for 2012-2013. Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Portland could all be potential options, with the new Sprint Center in Kansas City making for an attractive destination.
Our move? Take the Thrashers to Winnipeg, give the Coyotes their last year in Glendale, and move them to Kansas City.