Friday, August 6, 2010

Meanwhile, the NHL is looking at some possible rule changes

A presser from the NHL came out today offering some suggestions for rule changes, and announcing a training camp towards the end of August where the league will work it out.

Two veteran NHL coaches -- Ken Hitchcock and Dave King -- will take part in the camp and will be challenging the prospects with strategies which emphasize offensive play and creating scoring chances.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that something about Hitchcock's involvement makes me think they're doing it wrong.

Here is a list of potential rule changes:

Wednesday August 18 (all times ET; subject to change)

10:00 a.m. – Noon

* Hybrid icing rule;
* No line change for team committing an offside;
* Crease reset rule;
* Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
* Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).

2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
* Bigger crease;
* Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
* Wider blue lines;
* Line changes zone in front of each bench;
* Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
* No icing the puck while shorthanded;
* OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).

Thursday August 19 (all times ET; subject to change)

9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

* No touch icing;
* Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
* Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
* Second referee located off the playing surface;
* Delayed penalty rule
* No icing the puck while shorthanded;
* OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players.

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

* Variations of special teams play;
* OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

Other than the modified overtime rules and no touch icing, this camp reeks of a total overhaul of games that are exciting enough already. Weren't the playoffs a blast? Haven't we decided that, with Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton as starting goalies in the Cup Finals, that the goaltending era in hockey is over?

Sure, the state of the game in 2004 allowed the NHL to take a look at itself and make some overdue rule changes, but the most effective change was enforcing the rules they already had, as in actually calling hooks and holds, (during the regular season anyways).

Back in 2004 there was a tie for the league goal-scoring lead at 41 between Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. Three players cracked 50 this year, and to possibly show how meaningless rule changes are, keep in mind that neither Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos or Alexander Ovechkin were playing back in '04.

Some things can be tinkered with: the overtime format, the puck-over-glass rule, the two-referee system and touch icing. Hell, when you're worried about head shots and concussions, you may as well also institute shoulder and elbow pad regulations.

But bigger creases? Face-off dots down the middle? How about a coloured zone in front of the net where defensive players aren't allowed to stand? Let's not get into the total insanity of a 'verification goal-line' since physics dictates that a puck can be both fully across the line, but not a full puck's length across the line.

Perhaps the only good that can come of this is Down Goes Brown's inevitable 'other rule changes the NHL attempted.'

Until then, a camp looking at increasing scoring hosted by Ken Hitchcock and Ken King at the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility, where goals and dreams go to die.

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