NHL: 20 Possible Ways to Improve the League

April WeinerCorrespondent INovember 17, 2011

NHL: 20 Possible Ways to Improve the League

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    This past week NHL general managers gathered in one room to discuss the latest issues surrounding the league.

    The point of these meetings are for GMs to discuss problems in the NHL and determine solutions for improvement.

    This week, they discussed issues such as Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller and the Philadelphia Flyers' tactic against the Tampa Bay Lightning, among others. 

    We decided to take a look at some of the issues that maybe the league should look into. 

    Here are some ideas, including some popular suggestions and other interesting ideas to ponder. 

Get Rid of Delay of Game Penalty

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    There are some circumstances that a player is intentionally trying to delay the game; thus the Delay of Game penalty is warranted.

    However, sometimes a player shoots the puck and it goes over the glass, but it is unintentional. 

    Maybe a better solution instead of assessing a two-minute minor would be a faceoff in the offending player's zone. 

Penalize This

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    A few games back, the Philadelphia Flyers caused quite the controversy with this protest to the Tampa Bay Lightning's 1-3-1 strategy.

    I understand that they were protesting by using extreme measures, but this was a complete waste of time.

    This is much more of a delay of game than a puck shot over the glass. 

Get Rid of the Shootout?

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    Shootouts were adopted after the NHL lockout, molded after the format used to end minor league and other hockey games. 

    There are many people who are vehemently anti-shootout as a means of ending an NHL game. 

    The players are a large portion of that, according to a Sports Illustrated poll from a couple years back. The poll found that almost 97 percent of NHL players were against the shootout.

    Perhaps the NHL could be better if the shootout were eliminated. 

Shootouts Should Not Determine Who Advances to the Playoffs

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    Even if people disagree about whether or not the shootout should be used (some love the idea, others hate it), I think we can all agree that shootouts should not determine who advances to the playoffs.

    After all, shootouts aren't used in playoff games, so why should they be the deciding factor for who goes to the playoffs?

    There's a good chance that it will never happen again, like it did in this Philadelphia Flyers-New York Rangers game in 2010, but there needs to be a policy in place to be sure of that. 

Overhaul the Overtime System?

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    There are some complaints about the current regular season OT system in the NHL.

    For starters, an OT win earns a team two points, just like a regular win, yet an OT loss earns a team a point, whereas a regular loss warrants zero.

    Does this seem right? 

    An OT win should be worth less than a regular win. 

    Then there's the issue of shootouts again. 

    The goals for the players don't count towards season goal totals, but the shootout win counts as a win for a goaltender; another aspect that seems unfair. 

NHL Schedule

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    Currently, every team plays every team at least once; more often by division and conference. 

    However, it seems like every team should play every team twice: once at home and once on the road, so each team hosts every team once at home. 

    Think of the fans.

    What if a Western Conference fan is stuck on the East coast or vice versa? They will only have the opportunity to see their favorite team once every two years in their home city. 

Remove Instigator Penalty

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    The NHL instituted the "instigator rule" as a way to try to curb fighting in the league, despite the fact that fighting is a tradition and very popular aspect of the game.

    The player who starts the fight is assessed a two-minute minor for instigating, in addition to the five-minute major, therefore putting his team at a man disadvantage.

    Generally speaking, one player may drop the gloves first or ask to fight, but (again, usually) both players consent to the fight.

    Therefore, it doesn't seem right to penalize one more than the other, especially if it dissuades some from dropping the gloves. 

Headshots

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    A bigger concern for player safety is the issue of headshots that have caused serious damage and seem to be increasing in prominence.

    The NHL continually tries to address this problem, but the players need to address it, too.

    The players need to have enough respect for other players that they don't cheapshot or go after a guy's head.

    They also need to stop skating with their head down. 

    In short, they need to be more aware on the ice and more responsible about how they're hitting one another. 

Get Rid of Diving

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    Another way to improve the respectability of the game is to eliminate diving completely. No one respects diving on the ice and no one cares to watch diving off the ice.

    There is a penalty for diving, but it's not doled out as often it probably could be, partly because it is difficult to tell when someone is truly diving. 

    Long story short, players need to have enough respect for the game to not resort to diving. 

Visors

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    Some NHL players wear visors; some don't. 

    That is because visors are not mandatory in the NHL, as they are in minor leagues and most international leagues.

    There's no question that visors add protection to the players' who sport them, but some players' still don't wear them because they feel that it impedes their vision and thus their game.

    If visors are determined to decrease the chance of serious injury by that much, then the NHL should look to make it mandatory—for their own safety.

    They could do this for players of a certain age, too; young kids are starting to get used to them, so eventually everyone would wear them. 

Cascade M11 Helmet

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    With advances in technology, Mark Messier was able to have a helmet developed that is proven to absorb the impact of hits better than other helmets, therefore lessening risks of head injuries. 

    Perhaps if this helmet were more widely or unanimously used, the concussion epidemic could be considerably decreased.

    If the safety of players is improved and injury is decreased, then the game is better because you don't have your top players sitting on the sidelines indefinitely with concussions.

    That greatly improves the product on the ice. 

Soften the Shoulder Pads?

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    Another argument for increasing player safety and decreasing risk of injury would be to find a way to soften the padding that hockey players wear.

    The extra force of all that padding helps contribute to the impact of each hit. 

    Softening the shoulder pads in particular might cause fewer injuries. It certainly couldn't hurt. 

Should the NHL Use Olympic-Sized Rinks?

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    There are many arguments to using the Olympic-sized rink in the NHL, instead of the smaller NHL regulation-sized rink.

    The main argument is why should the NHL use something different than used in international play? After all, the players will play on Olympic-sized rinks in the Olympics (except in Vancouver 2010) and IIHF World Championship games.

    Plus, some argue that the bigger rink might showcase the skill of players, more so than the physicality of the game.

    The counter to that would be that the physicality of the game might be negatively affected, which would dramatically alter the sport.

    Alas, 30 NHL arenas are not going to be adjusted, so this may be the most moot of all these points. 

Commit to Continuing to Play in the Olympics

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    Speaking of the Olympics, the NHL should commit to continuing to allow NHL players to represent their respective countries in the Olympics.

    Yes, there's the risk of injury to star players and there's the loss of revenue during the Olympic break, but they should still allow it.

    After all, they worked so long to be able to go represent their countries when there was the amateur rule. Should they really just throw all that away?

    Also, players like Alex Ovechkin have already said they're going to Sochi in 2014, consequences be damned.

    Instead of focusing on the negatives, look at it as a way to showcase the NHL's talent and continue to show the world why the NHL will always be the best league that young players aspire to.

    After all, the last gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada was filled with predominantly NHL players.

    What better promotion and way to get people interested in the league and the sport is there? 

More Teams in Canada

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    While on the subject of hockey's popularity, there is no question that hockey is most popular in Canada. It's Canada's only sport, as far as the majority of Canadians are concerned.

    So why is it that out of 30 NHL teams, only seven are based in Canada and one has been there less than a year?

    Yes, they're trying to expose people to hockey to generate more interest, but at a certain point, you have to put the team where they'll be most supported.

    There's no question that that's Canada. 

Relocate Phoenix

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    The NHL is still keeping the Phoenix Coyotes afloat, as they try to find a buyer for the team.

    It seems like the time is running out for a buyer to emerge, so maybe the league should look to relocate the team.

    After all, they let the Atlanta Thrashers be relocated; they didn't offer the same support to keep them in their city that they have given the Coyotes.

    Phoenix still has so many empty seats, but so many underrepresented Canadians would love the opportunity to fill an arena to watch them. 

Realignment

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    The NHL desperately needs to be realigned, which is supposedly forthcoming after the 2011-12 season.

    Teams in the same division should be in the same time zone, or at least close to one another.

    The NHL Pacific is probably currently one of the worst divisions in regards to the time zones. 

    However, one thing that they need to be careful of during realignment is to not destroy divisional rivalries, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. 

National TV Deal

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    In the U.S., currently the NHL is played nationally on Versus, sometimes NHL Network and occasionally on NBC.

    If the league wants a shot at improving popularity in the U.S., they need to broker a TV deal that broadcasts more games more often nationally.

    ESPN would obviously be the optimal choice, but it's hard to say if that could be possible again.

    It would probably do wonders for league popularity, though. 

Get New CBA Signed

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    With the NFL lockout over the offseason and current work stoppage in the NBA, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to worry about the NHL next season.

    It wasn't too long ago that we were without our sport for an entire season and it would be devastating for both us and what the league has built up since then.

    If it seems to near a possible work stoppage, that could drive away some fans that the league has built up and if they want to improve popularity, they can't afford to drive anyone away. 

Fire Gary Bettman

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    The last suggestion, and a popular one judging by the general hatred of the man, would be to fire Gary Bettman and have another NHL commissioner.

    This suggestion has both pros and cons, which could fill up another slideshow on its own.

    Plenty of people believe that the league could be vastly improved if Bettman were no longer in the picture.

    Whether or not that would be true is the question.