17 August 2011

Goals and Goaltenders - part of a series on the NHL's RDO tests

A great thing Brendan Shanahan has brought to the NHL is the Research, Development, and Organization camp, where they have players experiment with rule changes and get a real idea of how these things might work in practice.

This will be the final topic in this series, and Camp Shanny is underway today, so there may be further comment when results are out.

Today's Topic: Penalties

There are a couple initiatives being tested that merit discussion relating to penalties, without further adieu...

1) Offending team must exit own zone in delayed penalty situation for whistle

This one sounds a little strange at first, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Right now a team that commits a penalty while not in possession of the puck does not get a stoppage of play until they gain control of the puck. Now many fans recognize the first problem, what constitutes "control" varies from official to official, some are certainly too quick to the whistle when a defender grazes his stick on a shot puck.

Right now during delayed penalty situations, attacking teams take the opportunity to remove their goaltenders and get a little extra man-advantage time until the offending team gets the puck. This proposed change would give the attacking team more time in these situations and rewards teams that are able to regain possession of the puck after turning it over.

I think this change should be worded such that play would be dead when the puck leaves the attacking zone (to prevent goals from being scored on an open net) otherwise I think this could be a potentially great change.

2) Penalties in their entirety

In other words, a team scored upon while shorthanded does not get relief from the penalty box. I like this rule the way it is as it effectively puts a maximum of one goal for any minor penalty called. I assume the argument for this is to increase scoring by effectively adding power play time to each penalty that terminates early. The reason the NHL went away from this is because it had a chilling effect on officials calling penalties in the first place. Referee's were afraid to make calls that might lead to more goals against the penalized team. I think this is a legit concern that probably won't be borne out at the RDO camp.

Thanks for reading this series, I hope you enjoyed it. As I stated above I may post more once some opinions come out of the actual tests, which started today.


15 August 2011

Goals and Goaltenders - part of a series on the NHL's RDO tests

A great thing Brendan Shanahan has brought to the NHL is the Research, Development, and Organization camp, where they have players experiment with rule changes and get a real idea of how these things might work in practice.

Today's topic: Goals and Goaltenders

This really should've been the first topic. What is more important in hockey than scoring goals or good goaltending? I'm a fan of both. The NHL is planning a number of related experiments.

*No Trapezoid.

Not sure why they need to test this at RDO camp. The NHL has seven decades without any restriction on the goaltender. That said I am a minority voice in favor of the trapezoid. I really think that created more races into the corners and make dump and chase hockey more exciting to watch. The flip side is that free roaming goaltenders behind the net could be a deterrent to playing dump-and-chase in the first place. I like the trapezoid, but I would like hockey about the same without it as well.

*Rule 63.2 - Delaying the Game

From the NHL rulebook

"A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player, including the goalkeeper, who holds, freezes or plays the puck with his stick, skates or body in such a manner as to deliberately cause a stoppage of play. With regard to a goalkeeper, this rule applies outside of his goal crease area."

Basically the way the rule is written (but not how it's called) is that goaltenders cannot cover pucks outside of their crease. They are able to leave the crease to defend shots, and I believe they would be able to freeze a puck following a shot when outside the crease, but they would not be able to cover loose pucks if outside of their crease.

I think this will keep more pucks in play and would probably be a positive change. I'll be curious to find out how it actually tests.

*Verification line

The idea is there would be an additional line behind the goal line that would confirm a goal if the puck touches it. Remember the entire puck must be completely across the goal line to be considered a goal. The verification line would presumably be behind the goal line one diamater of the puck. The thinking is this will help with replay verification. The confusing thing about this is that it would be possible for goals to be scored without breaking the plane of the verification line (puck on end for instance). I think the current standard on a replay review is to look for any white space between the puck and the goal line, and that suits the game just fine. I don't think an additional line will help the review process more than the current standard, and probably would just serve to bring confusion.

*Shallow Back Nets

This is a great thing to test in the RDO camp. The idea is a shallower goal cage will create more space behind the goal for players to maneuver. The first positive is that this would make more players wrap-around threats. A positive for the defense would be it becomes easier to move the puck when breaking out. The only potential downside is that it might become more difficult to spot whether pucks have gone in the net or not. Even with the current cage, sometimes pucks bounce out too quickly. If a shallower net would cause more replay reviews I'm probaly not in favor, if it doesn't I think this would be a wonderful change. I will be curious how this tests as well.

Next topic: Penalties


12 August 2011

Overtime - part of a series on the NHL's RDO tests

A great thing Brendan Shanahan has brought to the NHL is the Research, Development, and Organization camp, where they have players experiment with rule changes and get a real idea of how these things might work in practice.

Today's topic: Overtime

My Take:

I am no fan of the shootout, or the collusion point standings right now. I think there was nothing wrong with the standings system the NHL used for seven decades and I don't think tie games are a less legitimate result. Ties are certainly more legitimate than manufacturing a winner in the skills contest.

(I could even make an extreme argument that Overtime isn't even necessary other than in Game 7 of a playoff series, but the world isn't quite ready for that).

Everyone loves playoff overtime, and I dare say I know the reason. It's very simple. They just add periods until one team scores a goal. If travel and long games weren't an issue in the regular season, I wish they could do this format all year.

Before I get on a tirade, I'll just make my point: I wish they could play OT that was a little longer. The Minnesota High School league plays three 17 minute periods followed by an 8 minute overtime (about 1/2 a period. Is it that much to ask to increase NHL OT to 8, 10, or maybe 15 mins before declaring a tie, or having a shootout (if the shootout must be kept safe, rare, and legal)? In any event, I think longer overtimes would lead to more decisions and fewer shootouts, which I think is where my views and the RDO camp overlap.

The ADO Experiments:

*Four minutes of four-on-four, followed by three minutes of 3-on-3

I like this idea because it does make OT longer. I'm not sure about the logistics of this. If essentially there are two OTs, or teams have to reduce the number of players after a stoppage once 4 minutes have expired.

I don't really know how much the number of players in OT matters. It's tough to say because this change was made just a couple seasons before the shootout, and that changes the motivation and psychology of the game a lot.

*Shootouts

There are several ideas on the table about changing the shootout.

Five players: I definitely have a preference for this over the present three player format. This rewards teams that are good beyond their first line. If the NHL must have a shootout, why haven't they done this yet?

Shootout Precedes Overtime: This is interesting. Presumably this means the shootout will take place first, and then overtime will be played. The result of the shootout will stand only if there is no goal scored in OT. This means the team that lost the shootout will be in the role of attacker and the team that won can be content to play for a scoreless overtime.

It just seems to me that it would be odd to see two teams playing two different games, one extremely defensive, one extremely aggressive. (For you soccer fans I have the exact same problem with the "away goals rule" in aggregate series', I'm glad MLS and NASL have stayed away from this idiocy).

Repeat v. new players: I have a slight preference for using new players if a shootout is tied after 5 players, again because I think rewarding the deeper team is more consistent with successful teams during regular play, but that's not to deny the excitement of having players that may have already failed being called on to succeed (and vice versa), both are going to be tested at Camp Shanny.

Next topic: Goals and Goaltenders (in retrospect this should've been the first topic)



11 August 2011

Icing - part of a series on the NHL's RDO tests

A great thing Brendan Shanahan has brought to the NHL is the Research, Development, and Organization camp, where they have players experiment with rule changes and get a real idea of how these things might work in practice.

This summer's edition starts Wednesday, August 17, and there's a whole list that can be found at NHL.com. I'd like to take a few of these in a series of posts.

Today's topic: Icing

The camp will be experimenting with no-touch icing and the hybrid icing (where a linesman can blow the play dead immediately upon crossing the goal line if he believes no player from the offending team has a chance to play the puck).

I dislike the current touch icing for three BIG reasons.

1) Waiting for touch-ups is a waste of time in about 90% of instances

2) The point of calling icing is to punish a team for failing to clear the zone, it just doesn't seem right to give the offending team a chance to reverse that for not being able to clear their zone in the first place

3) Needless injuries from racing to the end board

The hybrid icing addresses the first issue. Instead of a player coasting back to secure and uncontested whistle, those few seconds could be spent in an attacking faceoff. Multiply that by a dozen or so calls per game and that time adds up and that time is spent in more attacking situations (That itself should show a slight increase in scoring, or at least in exiting situations).

But hybrid icing does not address the other two, and won't do anything to prevent the Kurtis Foster-like injuries. Races to the endboard which the linesman deems close will still have to be played to a touch.

Another test has to do with calling icing violations during shorthanded situations.
(This series will have an entry on the other Penalty and Power Play experiments later).

Because I favor attacking faceoffs over puck races, I think this is a good idea in theory, and I am glad they will test it. The big concern over this is that could add a lot of whistles to power plays that might cause more disruption than good for the team on the advantage.

During shorthanded situations, the team that is short rarely contests a puck they dump to the other end, so the team on the advantage usually get to bring it to the neutral zone without being contested. So is that status quo better for the team on a powerplay, than having an attacking faceoff? That is the answer the camp should seek and that I am very curious about.

Next Topic: Overtime


10 August 2011

Leopold perhaps leaks realignment, rightfully excited...

So I'm only about a month late to this party, but a month ago Wild owner Craig Leopold gave an interview to Kevin Gorg on KFAN (Podcast, skip to 22:00, or click here for the Star Tribune story) and may have revealed what is very important about the NHL's realignment plans for the 2012-13 season.

Leopold said the Wild will play in a division with "the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets – maybe not, depending on which way they would go East or West."

The two great things about this.

1) The Wild will be in a division with all of the other Central time zone teams (plus one more depending on where Columbus lands)

2) The Wild will probably be playing the minimum against teams in the "new Pacific" cutting their travel to these cities in half (also cutting the 9pm or later TV starts in half as well).

In passing Leopold metioned "we will be playing fewer teams in Canada." If he means fewer games against the west Canada and the Pacific coast teams, this would be consistent with the stories that believe a four division alignment means that teams will play home-and-home against the three other divisions and load up on games within their division (5 or 6 against each division opponent). This really mitigates the disadvantage of being in the Western Conference (maybe to the point where Detroit might want to hang around? maybe not?).

As I've said ad nauseum on this blog, the travel issues come from the four games against everyone in the conference in the current formula. While I understand the rational of the formula that it is better to schedule as many games as possible against the teams that influence the playoff race, it is far more burdensome in the West than it is in the relatively close-knit East.

Leopold is rightfully pleased if this is how it's going to shake out. He said, "I am all in favor for that. That is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team." That said, reports that "he gave away the realignment" plans overstate it a bit. He gave away one division which many people speculated on. Detroit was noticeably absent from the division he mentioned, fueling speculation that they will play in the East after the realignment.

Still giving away the "new Central" makes it pretty easy to infer that the teams to the West of the ones mentioned will end up in a "new Pacific" division. So he gave away half the realignment.

And from this we can determine the remaining teams will be in the Eastern Conference (Columbus being "in the air"), but he made no mention of how the East will be divided. Dividing the east has many unpleasing options as it seems to necessitate at least one team being separated from the current Atlantic division (and that could be a topic for a future post). For now I'm assuming Pittsburgh is the team to be moved out because of their proximity to Buffalo and Detroit, even though I hate the idea of having to separate them from Philadelphia.

If Columbus stays in the West I would predict...

Pacific: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Central: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Northeast: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Toronto
Atlantic: Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington

If Columbus moves to the East I would predict...

Colorado goes to the Central, Columbus goes to the Northeast

Pacific: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Central: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Northeast: Boston, Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Toronto
Atlantic: Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington

And again, Phoenix's situation is wide open and may influence whether two teams can go into the Eastern Conference.

But in any event, Minnesota hockey fans should be very exited, and this would seem to be a win for the Wild, Dallas, Detroit, and Columbus, the four teams that struggle the most with travel under the current system.




04 August 2011

Should the NHL have left ESPN?

I have a comment on Puck Daddy today in response to an article about the NHL leaving ESPN being a mistake, I thought I would share it here:

I never have, and don't think I ever will miss the NHL on the worldwide leader in lying about sports.

Of all the reasons to criticize Bettman, this would be the one thing I secretly respect him for (in the spirit of the "Guilty Pleasures" series).

Remember ESPN picked up NBA rights during the lockout, at best the NHL would've got one game a week on "the deuce." Yes, Versus offered double, and double the airtime. And now look. We're talking national coverage on every game from the second round onward in the new deal with NBCU. Never would've happened on ESPN.

After this ten years is up maybe ESPN/NBC share ala the NBA, leaving ESPN had its growing pains, but is clearly paid off big. NBCU clearly has some growing to do, the rebranding of Versus is a start, and hopefully will mean some programming that might compete with sportscenter for raitings (personally I can't stand sportscenter so much I watch "Final Score" on FSN, the often get to hockey in the first segment!). They'll probably develop and ESPN3 like platform soon as well.

Good on NBCU for their treatment of the NHL, ESPN can f themselves with a broken bottle for all I care.