Between sips by the hotel pool, the NHL’s 31 general managers have been trumpeting the health of the game at the annual (and aptly-timed) meetings in Florida — and for good reason. Scoring is way up, comebacks seem to be commonplace, there are intriguing postseason races shaping up in each conference (albeit one by default), and the league is transforming more into one that revolves around its superstars.
This isn’t to say there aren’t tweaks that could be applied to strengthen the good of the game. The postseason format still stinks, and so does the shootout. But for the most part, though, hockey is in a good place.
It is, then, pretty lax down in Boca.
Here are the mostly insignificant ideas being discussed this week, ranked.
1. Lose your helmet, lose your shift
This is a pretty obvious one. With all that we’ve learned about head injuries and its associated risks, no league that governs a game that involves blades, sticks, flying frozen projectiles and body contact should allow participation without a helmet.
Yeah, it’s cool and hype and the crowd loves it when a player loses his bucket and continues on with his shift, wet hair waving in the wind, but that doesn’t make it even remotely intelligent.
Tighten up the straps, fellas.
2. ‘Pick your poison’ faceoffs
Teams working the man advantage could choose what side the faceoff will be dropped from next season, and therefore move quicker into their planned sets. Anything subtle that can enhance goal production is a big old thumbs up from me.
3. No slamming
Again, pretty obvious safety consideration here. Thing is though, slamming seems already punishable by the NHL. Mike Matheson was suspended, and Josh Morrissey fined, for slamming players to the ice this season. I suppose it’s just a matter of writing it into the law for next season.
4. One-minute penalties in overtime
I’m torn on this one. Penalties in overtime are mostly disappointing. Yes, 4-on-3 lends itself well to the attacking aspect of the game, obviously, but 3-on-3 is more exciting. And the absolute worst thing that can happen to an overtime period is having it play out at four aside once a penalty has expired.
So while I like the idea of less power-play time in the extra frame, would one-minute penalties just result in more and more overtime minutes being played at 4-on-4 with shortened penalties expiring sooner without a goal?
Out on that idea.
5. Clocks in the corners
As it stands now, the only alert to the chaos that has the potential to unfold at the expiration of a penalty are cries from the bench and the sounds of the goalie stick smacking against the ice from the other end.
While those time-honoured strategies are mostly effective, the clocks in the corner boards would take away the remaining guesswork for attacking players at the end of power-play opportunities, and therefore inject some safer play into the game. Keep the chaos, I say.
6. Mandatory helmets in warmup
Ah, man. I know safety is the priority, but there’s still a place in the game for vanity, isn’t there?
7. Cap relief for suspended players
Tell me, in what world would it make sense for teams to benefit from their players being suspended?
It’s on teams to educate their players on the rules and proper conduct. Granting financial relief similar to what a team would receive by placing a player on long-term injury reserve works to detach them from that accountability.
8. Reducing foul language
This isn’t elementary school. There’s a line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and it seems that NHL players have a better handle on that. Leave it be.
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