NHL Rules: Simple Steps The League Can Take To Make Play Better

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2008

During the most recent General Managers meetings I read a column regarding the topics that may be put on the table for discussion.

One of the possible topics was the "Trapezoid" and whether or not its implementation has had the desired effect.

According to the columnist (Pierre LeBrun), many NHL General Managers actually believe scoring chances are down due to the trapezoid. They believe that the good puck-handling goaltenders are the minority and that the rule to eliminate goaltenders from straying to play the puck has helped the less skilled goaltender from making detrimental mistakes.

One of the biggest issues the NHL has had with all the changes to rules and game play since resuming after the lock out has been that decisions seem to have to be black or white.

Why not simply amend rules that may not be working with the desired effect? The implementation has had negative and positive results. If you simply eliminate it, wouldn't that eliminate positive changes completely?

In my humble opinion, one of the real positives of the trapezoid has been the re-introduction of the "Dump and Chase" option as a way to gain entry into the offensive zone.

Good hockey has a lot of flow, and is all about options. The more options out there for the offensive team, the more difficult the job is for the defensive team.

The topic of eliminating the trapezoid was brought to the forefront mainly due to a few defenseman being completely obliterated while heading back to retrieve a dumped puck in the corner.

The claim which GMs make is: If the goalie could play that puck, it would cut down on the chances of defensemen being in that position.

Of course the other option thrown out there is to allow for the defenseman's teammate to cause a bit of interference to allow him some time to get back; however, this should not be an option.

No amount of "legal obstruction" should be allowed back into the game.

Personally I thought, and still think, the trapezoid was a great idea. I'm willing to see a few defensemen get knocked right out of their skates as trade off for the option of dump and chase hockey.

I would recommend to the NHL Competition Committee and BOG this solution to their concerns: Simply reverse the trapezoid. Allow the goaltenders to play the puck outside the trapezoid and not inside, as long as they remain behind the goal-line (of course the option for the goaltenders to play the puck anywhere in front of the goal-line would remain as it is currently).

If the NHL GMs really are concerned with defensemen being vulnerable from all the “dump and chase” hockey; if they’re concerned with the decrease in scoring chances from goaltenders electing to stay in net as opposed to playing the puck, this would be by far the simplest solution.

In my opinion GMs are exaggerating.

The majority of NHL goaltenders today can all pretty much confidently, and successfully, wrap pucks around the boards to get it away from trouble.

Granted, there are only a handful like Brodeur, Turco, and DiPietro that can confidently skate with the puck and make successful 50 foot tape to tape passes; however, to eliminate offensive possession in the zone, you only need require the ability to firmly wrap a puck along the wall.

As of now, a goaltender plays the puck from an area two feet behind or to the side of his net. If he gives the puck away his trek back to recovery is not very far and thus allows for a higher percentage of recovery saves.

In this regard I agree with the NHL GMs, but it doesn't matter, they err again anyway. If we eliminate the trapezoid completely, the advantage falls back to the elite puck handlers and the inept goaltenders will still sit in their net and not test a weak area of their game.

Result of playing the puck outside the trapezoid: Even elite puck-handlers make mistakes and I rather have someone like Marty Turco 40 feet away from his net in the corner when he makes that rare gaff as opposed to right beside his goal post.

This rule would penalize puck-handling errors made by the best and would still act as a deterrent for the weaker puck-handling goalies thus allowing for the dump and chase to remain an option for entry into the offensive zone.

Another positive of this rule change would be that the hard wrap around dump would be used heavily, as the opposition goaltender would have a very difficult time getting outside the trapezoid line to stop the puck.

Seldom are defensemen annihilated on these types of dump-ins. If the opposition team shot the puck in and it stopped inside the trapezoid where the goalie could not play it, the only option would be for the defensemen to retrieve it. He would now be protected to an extent by the net. Not being able to have a direct line at the target would force the forechecking player to slow down, thus cutting down the chances of ramming the opposition player through the glass.

One part of the equation I believe the GMs have missed up until now, and still are for that matter, is that we should not be concentrating on which goalies are great with the puck on their stick.

The rules need to force the goalie to be a great skater. The danger in a goalie leaving his net to play the puck is his ability to skate around and get back to his net. If the rules are set up in a way whereby the goalie's risk is being caught in no man's land then the NHL will have implemented a successful rule change.