2011-2012 NHL Season: 6 Changes That Will Improve the NHL
Each year every sport is faced with new challenges to better the sport and make it a more exciting and well-run organization.
This year the NHL was bitten by the hit to the head bug, which was showcased with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who missed half of the regular season and the Penguins' first-round playoff defeat.
The NHL could use some other changes as well before entering the 2011-2012 regular season.
Over the next six slides I will give my thoughts on what the NHL should do and what rules it needs to change as well as create to make the NHL a better and safer league for players.
Regular Season Point System
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The current point system in the NHL needs a revamping badly.
The NHL needs to look at how soccer does its scoring system based on a three-point system and put it into use.
Here is how it would work:
Regulation win: 3 points
Regulation loss: 0 points
Overtime win: 3 points
Overtime loss: 0 points
Shootout win: 2 points
Shootout loss: 1 point
I think this is the fairest way to give points out to teams.
A team that makes it to overtime should not be awarded any points just because it got there.
A team should be awarded points if it wins and none if it loses in regulation or overtime.
However, since the NHL does have shootouts now, one point would be given to the losing team.
This is a more legitimate way to have a point system, and teams who win will be rewarded more than just one extra point than their opponents for making it to overtime or a shootout.
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People have been complaining for some time now about the current icing rule and how it puts defenseless players in a very dangerous position when going back for the puck.
The new icing would be what I have seen called "hybrid icing" in U15-U18 hockey.
It is similar to lacrosse rules—when a ball is shot at the net and goes over the back line, the team of the closest player to the line when the ball exits play is awarded the ball.
Same situation in hockey.
The puck is shot down the ice, and two players are going after it; if the defensive team player is closest to the goal line, then icing is automatically called, and the play is whistled dead.
If the offensive team is closest to the goal line, icing is waved off and play continues.
Now people will argue that it still leaves room for a player to get completely destroyed in the corner or behind the net.
That may be true, but you have to look at the current rule of icing and when players are getting hit. It is when the puck is already past the goal line and the defensive player reached the puck first.
With this rule the whistle would have already blown, and that problem would not occur.
Is there still a possibility for a player to get hurt? Sure, there always is that possibility with any rule change.
However, I think that this hybrid style of icing would greatly lessen the chance of a player getting injured.
Hits to the Head
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This is becoming the hot topic in sports these days along with players suffering from concussions.
The NHL has done little to prevent head hits to players, and it has come very clear that league officials are not consistent at all with handing down penalties to whoever the player is that committed the penalty.
Here is my change to the rules that would start to make a change in the league immediately.
First, a new penalty needs to be created: HIT TO THE HEAD. Create a new hand gesture for referees to use when calling the penalty so they do not have to use elbowing or charging for a penalty when it possibly was not.
Second, a hit to the head is an automatic four-minute double minor, no questions asked, no matter if the player tapped the guy's head with his elbow.
The four minutes is the minimum that can be called though. A more severe hit would be given a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty.
The NHL has done nothing to keep players from hitting opponents in the head, and this would be a big first step.
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People have been up in arms this year over "repeat offenders" getting off with such a light sentence from the league—players like Matt Cooke, Steve Downie and Trevor Gillies (add any other repeat player).
Here is how the league should handle first-time and repeat offenders who commit an illegal hit beyond a two-minute penalty.
First-time offender: 10 games
Second offense: 25 games
Third offense: 50 games
Fourth offense: 82 regular season games and also all playoff games
Fifth offense: Have fun looking for other work
To make sure players get the point from the NHL, the league has to take a strong stance on the issue.
Handing out 10 games right off the bat tells players that the league is done with allowing garbage hits to take place, and no matter who you are, you will be taken care of with a heavy suspension.
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The NHL playoffs and all playoffs are supposed to showcase the top teams in the league.
This is rarely the case, as was seen in this past year's NFL playoffs, when the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs with a losing record and were awarded a home playoff game to boot.
The best way to have the top 16 teams in the NHL in the playoffs is to seed them 1 through 32, and the top 16 at the end of the season make the playoffs.
The league would still keep the two conferences, and each team would cut its conference games down to allow for more games against the other conference.
Divisions would still be kept the same, and the top six teams (three from each conference) would be awarded the first six positions based on their total points.
The last 10 would be awarded to the next 10 best points in the league.
Here is the list of all 16 teams and their seeds if the league were to do it this way.
1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 16. Dallas Stars
2. Washington Capitals vs. 15. Buffalo Sabres
3. Philadelphia Flyers vs. 14. Montreal Canadiens
4. San Jose Sharks vs. 13. Chicago Blackhawks
5. Detroit Red Wings vs. 12. Los Angeles Kings
6. Boston Bruins vs. 11. Phoenix Coyotes
7. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 10. Nashville Predators
8. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 9. Anaheim Ducks
Then after each round the teams are re-seeded so the top seed plays the lowest-ranked team left in the playoffs.
The Outdoor Game
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The outdoor game has become an NHL standout every year since the Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo game.
The outdoor game, however, should not be a regular season game.
The game should be used for the All-Star game from this coming year on.
With the game counting as a regular season game, the league, city and teams rely on conditions to be perfect in the city it is being played in.
This past year in Pittsburgh, the league was almost burned with a normal warm week in Western Pennsylvania, where the snowfall ended and a warm front bringing occasional rain rolled through.
If the rain were any harder or lasted for a few days in a row, the game would've had to be canceled and then rescheduled for a regular Consol Energy Center venue.
If the NHL were to turn the outdoor game into a big All-Star event over an entire weekend, cities and the NHL could make much more money.
They could have the rookie vs. sophomore game on a Friday, the skills competition on Saturday and then the game on Sunday.
The biggest selling point is that if the league gets bad weather, who cares? They do not have to worry about making a regular season game up, and they can just chalk it up as a bad weather event and try again next year.