NHL players are often criticized for overusing clichés, not speaking substantively in public, and keeping their personalities under wraps.
That can be true at times — and is often worsened by criticism they take when they do express themselves — but they can have insightful things to say as well, particularly about the sport they play.
Kristen Shilton and Greg Wyshynski of ESPN compiled a number of interesting thoughts from players at the NHL Player Media Tour this week, and one subject that stood out was rule changes they want to see in their sport.
The whole piece is worth reading in its entirety, but we thought we'd drill down on the rule-change suggestions.
Below you'll find a power ranking of the best and worst ideas a number of notable NHL players had about how to change their sport:
1. Eliminate the salary cap — Jacob Trouba
This would benefit some teams more than others and as such it's a non-starter for some. Even so, any mechanism that artificially depresses what the players — who make the game what it is — can earn is one that's tough to support.
Not only does the salary cap prevent many players from getting what they're worth, it also restricts their movement, making the NHL less exciting than other leagues at the trade deadline and during the offseason.
Many fears that fans have about the lack of a salary cap can be debunked by looking at what's going on in MLB, where the correlation between payroll and winning is weaker than it's been in recent memory.
If you could buy a Stanley Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs would've done it sometime between 1967-68 and 2003-04.
2. Abolish the shootout/lengthen overtime — Johnny Gaudreau/Jack Eichel
The shootout provides some fun highlights, but fans don't like seeing their teams' fates decided by a skill competition — and neither do players. Gaudreau and Eichel aren't the first to mention this as Connor McDavid spoke out on this issue in January.
Shootouts are far less compelling than three-on-three hockey, and as long as players are on board with extending overtime it's something the NHL should consider. There are safety concerns with regular-season overtimes having no concrete endpoint, but if that's not realistic, maybe a 10-minute overtime period is.
3. Goals don't end power plays — Josh Morrissey
Although we disagreed with a different proposal that would juice power-play efficiency due to the dwindling effectiveness of penalty killing in the NHL, this is too elegant to come down against.
If you take a two-minute penalty, you spend two minutes in the penalty box. That makes perfect sense. Not only would you get more power-play scoring with this rule, you might disincentive some dumb penalties as heading to the sin bin would hurt more than it does now.
4. Remove back-to-backs from the schedule — Filip Forsberg
This probably isn't realistic with everything that goes into schedule making, from concerts to NBA conflicts, but it would make the sport better.
Hockey players are simply less effective on the second leg of a back-to-back, and games between teams that are fresh and those that are rested aren't a good representation of what the NHL has to offer.
5. No dress code on game days — Clayton Keller
While this wouldn't affect the on-ice product, it's taking a stab at the issues hockey has with conformity. The game could use more personality, and one way to achieve that is by letting the players express themselves through their outfits.
The NHL is already a buttoned-up league figuratively. It doesn't have to be literally buttoned up as well.
6. Kick goals are fine — Tage Thompson
Not only would this be kind of fun, it would also remove plenty of annoying judgment calls.
This is reminiscent of the NFL ruling that receivers had to get two feet in bound to make a catch no matter what, instead of calling force-out penalties for airborne players getting pushed out. Initially, it seemed unfair, but over time it became clear that it was far easier to have a black-and-white rule.
Tage Thompson suggested it in the ESPN article but the league really should allow kicked in goals intentional or not to count. Right now there’s far too much controversy on the reviews involving kicks. Either allow all or none of it, the current gray area system doesn’t work.
— Mike Bartner (@MikeBartner) September 19, 2023
If you put the puck in the net, it's a goal.
As Thompson pointed out in his explanation of this idea, forwards are often tied up by defencemen in front of the net, and all they have available to them is their feet. Let 'em use what they've got.
7. Advantage for the offense on faceoffs — John Tavares
This is precisely the kind of suggestion you'd expect to hear from a meat-and-potatoes player and personality like Tavares. It is possible that allowing the team on offense to get their stick down second on the draw would give more possessions to attacking teams and lead to more goals.
That said, this isn't a particularly exciting rule change proposal — and the correlation between faceoff wins and real wins tends to be minimal. This isn't a bad idea, but it's tough to get amped up about it.
8. No icing the puck on the penalty kill — Charlie McAvoy
This would lead to more power-play goals, but it would make penalty killing so difficult that it feels like the balance would be off.
Higher-scoring games tend to be more enjoyable for fans, but teams on defense need to have a few tools at their disposal. Penalty killing is hard enough as it is considering power plays are getting more and more efficient.
9. Refs available for interview after games — Seth Jarvis
This sounds like a great idea on the surface. There are so many times when referees make perplexing calls and it would be cathartic to see them held to the fire and forced to justify their decisions.
In practice, it's tough to imagine this would result in anything but boilerplate responses from refs actively trying to avoid being the story of any given game.
The premise is sound here, but it seems likely that what you'd get is referees finding a variety of ways to say that they called the plays as they saw them and will review the footage later.
10. Bringing back the red line — Sidney Crosby
Nothing makes Sid the Kid sound like an old man like the superstar center calling for a rule change from the pre-lockout world that used to cause congestion, enable trapping, and create an impediment to offense.
Very few NHL fans miss two-line pass whistles, and while Crosby is right that it would "force more passes", it's unclear if that's something the game needs. From a player's standpoint, it's an interesting concept to mull over in terms of how the old rule might mesh with the speed of the modern game, but there's a difference between a thought experiment and a good idea.