The issue of re-introducing the red line is expected to be discussed during this week’s meetings of NHL GMs. Here’s some other rule changes I’d like to see.
First, regarding the red line. The suggestion is it should be brought back to slow the game down as a means of improving player safety, but there’s concern such a move would spark a return of clutch-and-grab, obstructionist hockey which killed the game’s pace between 1995 and 2004.
Folks who magically believe players safety would improve with the reintroduction of the red line seem to forget this incident, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this, or this, or this…this…this...this…this, and this. Just a handful of the notable injuries which occurred when the red line was part of the game. Bringing back the red line as a “safety issue” won’t significantly reduce injuries.
Once upon a time, about seven years ago, I was an advocate of removing the red line to speed up the game. I haven’t been disappointed with the results, but I also suggested, way back then, that if the game were called by the rules, there wouldn’t be any need to consider removing the red line in the first place.
What would both ensure player safety without hurting the speed of the game – as well as prevent obstruction from creeping back into the game and giving us “Dead Puck Era 2: Electric Boogaloo” - is calling the game by the rule book. But it seems some folks don’t want officials to do their jobs, claiming calling “too many penalties would slow down the game”. They seemingly prefer them to indicate goals and ignore all but the most blatant infractions, so I’m not hopeful of ever seeing that day come.
As for the rule changes I’d like to see:
Abolish the“Over the Glass” penalty. This rule actually does more to slow the flow of the game than improve it. The idea behind it was it would prevent players from deliberately getting a stoppage in play if they were having trouble clearing their zone. Evidently, I missed this epidemic of deliberate stoppages leading up to the rule’s implementation slowing the game to a crawl, considering how rarely this tactic was actually employed.
More often than not, when the puck heads over the glass, it’s inadvertent, as the player is attempting to clear the puck out of his zone, not deliberately trying to put it into the crowd for a stoppage of play. Penalizing players for an accidental stoppage makes no sense.
One of these years, that’s going to impact a critical playoff game, probably in overtime, leaving the NHL with the same embarrassment as it faced during the infamous “No Goal” in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has already confessed (though it took him 13 years to do so) that the “foot in the crease” rule was a mistake. Does he really want to face this again by a puck being inadvertently shot over the glass costing a team a Stanley Cup? Since this rule is likely to stick, I’m guessing the commissioner is a glutton for punishment, as this could one day come back to haunt him.
No-touch icing. It only makes common sense, as this will certainly prevent players from being placed in compromising positions where they would be susceptible to serious injury. Even a die-hard traditionalist like Don Cherry not only supports this rule, but has been advocating its implementation for nearly 15 years.
Folks who claim the implementation of “no-touch” icing would ruin the game’s excitement are clutching at straws. Rarely is a game decided because of a race to negate an icing. If anyone actually gives a damn about player safety, this is one of the best rules which can be implemented which would protect the players and not harm the overall quality of the game.
Abolish the “loser” point. It makes absolutely no sense to reward failure by giving a team a point if they lose in overtime or a shootout. And it’s an absolute farce for a team making the playoffs on the basis of such points. If you lose a game, you don’t deserve a “point for trying”.
Adopt a full two minutes for power-plays. Once upon a time, a penalty wasn’t negated when the team on the power-play scored a goal. If you were penalized, you played the full two minutes (or more) short-handed.
Back in 1956, however, the NHL changed the rule, because the Montreal Canadiens at the time had such a lethal power-play, resulting in the current format.
If the NHL wants to improve scoring, returning to the pre-1956 rule could do it. Of course, the counter-argument – and it’s a good one – is officials would be reluctant to call too many penalties, but if the league forced its officials to call the game by the rule book, they’d have little choice but to make the calls.
If officials called the game by the book, it would over time force players to play a more disciplined style, reducing the number of penalties, and improving the flow of the game.
Three-on-Three overtime. This is something Detroit GM Ken Holland thinks might be a good idea as a means of reducing the number of games settled by a shootout. If a game remains tied following one five-minute “four-on-four” period ,it should followed by a five-minute “three-on-three” period. It would certainly open up more skating room, resulting in even more end-to-end action, and would likely decrease the number of games being resolved by a shootout.