Gary Bettman Comments on Flyers-Lightning Game: Should There Be a Rule Change?

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IINovember 11, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to attendees during 'Sports Teams for Social Change,' hosted by Beyond Sport United on September 27, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

During Wednesday night's nationally-televised game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, hockey fans were treated to one of the most peculiar exchanges of play hockey has ever seen.

The Lightning, under head coach Guy Boucher, used an extremely passive defensive setup highlighted by a complete lack of forechecking; the Lightning players did not attack when Philadelphia possessed the puck in their own zone.

The benefit of this to Tampa Bay is overloading the defensive zone. Since the two Flyers defensemen were in their own zone, all five Lightning players were capable of covering the three Philadelphia forwards.

The reason Philadelphia was hesitant to breakout under these circumstances is the potential for turnovers.

Many are trying to figure out which team was right in the situation; the Flyers for refusing to play into the defensive scheme, or the Lightning for refusing to bite on Philadelphia's patience.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke on the circumstance Thursday night, but did not support either side.

"Did I like it? No," he said. "Is it the most horrible thing I've ever seen on the ice? No. But I do think it has now added another agenda item to the general managers (meetings) next week."

Bettman went on to note the success of the trap, saying that recent Stanley Cup winners utilized the style. However, he also said "By the same token, if this became too prevalent and too much of the game and too regular, then I think we'd have to deal with it, and we will."


Hopefully, Bettman will make no such rules.

Look at the possible solutions:

1. Make a rule which would essentially require the attacking team (Philadelphia) to move the puck up.

2. Make a rule which would essentially require the defending team (Tampa Bay) to attack.

Either way, the rule dictates the way hockey must be played. It affects the strengths of one team and the weaknesses of the other.

Creating either of these rules would prevent teams from using certain strategies. The solution should not be to limit the ways in which a team can play hockey.

This does not mean fans and NHL officials should support a stalemate on the ice. It is unlikely that such a ridiculous situation would occur again, which is why the likelihood of a rule change is low.

However, if this does occur again there is a rather simple solution that might help; matching delay of game penalties. Had this happened Wednesday night, Tampa Bay would lose a man for refusing to attack, Philadelphia for refusing to move the puck up-ice.

Creating a four-on-four opens up significant room on the ice. For Philadelphia, that means more room to move the puck out of their zone. For Tampa Bay, that's more room for fast, skilled players such as Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to create plays.

After the four-on-four situation, one team may see it benefits less from the circumstances. If it happens and Philadelphia scores, maybe Tampa Bay forechecks in order to prevent the situation from occurring again. If Tampa Bay scores on the four-on-four, maybe the Flyers move the puck up to avoid another four-on-four.

Matching penalties might cause a team to change its five-on-five strategy in order to prevent further matching delay-of-game penalties. If we see the stalemate again, this could be a solution.

Or, Guy Boucher could stop being the only coach in the NHL who refuses to send in a forechecker.