31 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Two Issues on which I am moderate


This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Two Issues on which I am moderate.
For the purposes of this piece, I am defining my opinion as moderate if I do not have a strong opinion one way or another, even if many in the hockey community find the issue controversial.

Franchise Expansion

The populist opinion is that the league over expanded at the end of the 90s and diluted the talent pool.  While I generally agree with that sentiment, I think the growth of the youth game in America will mean that issue will take care of itself.  The players are getting better and faster every year and I think the talent pool will grow into the size of the league.  And unless you root for Columbus or Toronto, your favorite team probably won’t be terrible forever in a salary cap league.

I don’t think the league should push for any more teams until the end of the decade, but I don’t think two more would be the end of the world either.  There are worthy markets in both the United States and Canada.

The Trapezoid

The populist opinion on the trapezoid is that it is a mean way to reduce the goaltenders ability to handle the puck.  When it first started (I was watching AHL) hockey I actually liked it.  Restricting the goaltenders made dump-and-chase a lot more interesting.  There was emphasis on forechecking, and defenders suddenly had to be quick going back into their own end.

To a point, I understand why New Jersey Devils fans take this personally, sarcastically referring to it as the “Marty Brodeur” rule as he is the goaltender that revolutionized puck handling.

I also understand a counterargument that this rule causes goaltenders to take less risk, but I think that in general, goaltenders  very seldom make errors in when to leave the net at the NHL level.

I guess I’m still in favor of the trapezoid, which I know puts me in the minority of opinion, but it probably wouldn’t change my feelings about the game a ton if it disappears in the near future.

Well that was two issues I don’t feel too strongly about, but State of Hockey, what say you?

30 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal



This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as liberal if it represents something in the NHL that I would like to change, or represents the support of a recent change in the league.

         Increasing Penalty Calls and Discipline
There are many areas in which I think the NHL should step up enforcement.  I support the change to try and remove clutch and grab tactics that were prevalent in the 90s.  I think there should be more suspensions for dangerous hits.  (The joke that is the Department of Player Safety does not accomplish this, which I will cover in part four.)  I think diving ought to be asuspendable offense, not this let’s embarrass the players by making a list weak sauce.  (And in liberal fashion, suspending divers without pay would punish players with bigger contracts more.)  Seriously, publish a list, when did the NHLPA become "Harriet the Spy" writing down nasty things about their peers in a secret slam book?

Nothing makes me madder than people (usually old-timers) that hate penalty calls.  They dismiss penalty calls with some variation of the phrase “let the players decide the game.”  Any version of this quote, frankly is crap.  Players that commit penalties are deciding they game, the defender didn’t have to reach around a forward just because he’s slower.  He choose to commit the foul, the consequences should be the same, regardless of if it’s the first minute or the last in a game.

End Touch Icing

My by definition, support of touch icing is a liberal belief in NHL teams, whereas it would be a conservative belief in reference to just about every other level of hockey in the US, or internationally, where it is the norm.
The purpose of icing in the rulebook is to punish teams for failing to carry the puck over the center line.  I don’t see any reason to give a team that commits this violation an opportunity to cancel the violation by winning a race.

Furthermore, I find attacking face-offs far more exciting that icing races.  Let’s save those three seconds on the clock on the dozen or so icing violations in the game and use them on attacking faceoffs.

I think the hybrid icing being tested in college and the AHL is a step in the right direction, but I would say it's a very small step.  At least hybrid icing will save those few seconds where the violating team doesn't even contest the race.  However, the close plays are the ones that are most likely to cause injury, and it's the close plays that are still being played to a touch.

(Since I am advocating for touch icing everywhere, I suppose since college used automatic icing for years before, switching to hybrid is actually a step in the wrong direction for college.)

It's a no brainer to me, and the extent to which icing races are defended as exciting play is just baffling to me.  Blow the whistle, pushing the dumping team, back to their zone.

Penalty Shots

Of the three views I’m presenting this one is the most controversial.  I am anti-shootout, but I wouldn’t mind if there were a few more penalty shots called in NHL games.  One instance that I would consider would be allowing teams to opt for a penalty shot when they would otherwise get a power play in the final two minutes of the 3rd period or overtime.

Penalty shots have about 1 in 3 success rating, whereas power plays are about 1 in 5.  So maybe this idea would backfire because that would make refs less hesitant to call penalties at the end of the game.

Maybe a compromise would be to allow a defender to chase the shooter from outside the center circle on these penalty shots as we see when the Wild put on free scrimmages.

This would definitely put more drama in the final minutes of close games.  It also seems a better way to compensate for a minor penalty commit with 8 seconds left, than giving a team an 8 second power play.

I am glad to share my views with you.  I will have the third installment tomorrow, but what say you, State of Hockey?

29 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative

This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  (And we have another lockout to prove it.)

This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am conservative.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as conservative if it represents something thin the NHL that I would not like to change, or the rejection of a major change in the league.

1      Standings/Shootout
This is probably the single change of the past decade the NHL has made that I hate the most.  And there are so many things to hate about it. 
First thing to hate, the introduction of the shootout following the last lockout ushered in an era in which the actual league standings, which determine actual playoff teams, were actually going to reward the winner of a tie-breaking contest that is not actually much like hockey.
Second thing to hate, the idea that the two points for a win and one point for forcing overtime motivates implicit collusion.  It’s hard to say if the statistics prove collusion.  In the first four seasons of this system, there were 281, 281, 272, and 282 games that went to overtime or a shootout in ’05-06, ’06-07, ’07-08, ’08-09, respectively.  In the three following season, there were 307, 297, and 300 overtime or shootout games in ’09-10, ’10-11, and ’11-12, respectively.  It’s hard to say if the jump in the past three seasons represents teams figuring out it’s logical to play not to lose.
Actual numbers aside, the appearance itself that it’s logical for teams to collude would lead to dead 3rd periods I think is problematic.  I could do a whole post on alternative standings, but suffice to say, just about any system I’ve seen out there is better than the one in place now.

      Realignment and Playoffs
I would define my position as conservative on this issue because I favor a return to a four division setup.  (Though I would say I’m ambivalent about naming the divisions and conferences after important names in hockey as was done before 1993.)  I think the plan that the board of governors passed this year would have fixed a lot of what is wrong with the current setup.  I have done many other posts on this if you’re interested in specifics.  To summarize, particularly in the Western Conference, there needs to be a more geographic division, and one that would place Minnesota with more traditional rivals.  And keeping playoff matchups within a division (at least for one round) again would only bolster rivalries in all division games.

Fighting
I am aware that my support of the continued place of fighting in the NHL is as hockey-politically incorrect as it gets right now.  There is still something about the notion that players can hold each other accountable where officials fail that seems logical to me.  The further the NHL gets from this idea, the more cheap shots that the league’s rats are going to get away with.

Head-shots are a very sensitive subject right now, and that is why fighting is in the cross-hairs.  However, I still like to think fighting is a deterrent to dirty hits during full speed play, but I understand this view is finding its way to the minority.  But until the NHL gets its act together on headshots, I’ll hope there’s still a place for it in the league.

Well I've set the definition of three beliefs on which I believe I am conservative.  There will be another piece tommorow, but in the interim State of Hockey, what say you?