The NHL held it’s first research and development camp last week in Toronto. The camp featured some of the top prospects on-ice trying out some new ideas that the league office has thought up.
I’m assuming that his camp will become a yearly ritual but I also assume that there won’t be a parade of new rules trotted out each season. I think a hybrid of new ideas and recurring ones will be the theme at the future incarnations of this camp. Here are some of the ideas tossed around:
— Having three faceoff dots, one in each zone, down the centre of the rink.
— Using a variation of the faceoff, where a whistle starts play rather than the traditional puck drop.
— Trying both no-touch icing and a hybrid icing rule, where referees can blow the play dead prior to the defending player touching the puck.
— Having the second referee located off the playing surface.
— Not allowing a team to change lines after it commits an offside.
— Placing red mesh in the nets rather than white to give shooters a better look at openings.
— Having the puck already on the ice for a faceoff, which is started by a whistle rather than the traditional puck drop.
Like I said. Some of the ideas are truly genius, others are the opposite. I feel like a majority of the ideas pitched were to make the game better for the television audience rather than the good of the game.
Take the red mesh and white posts, for example. Not only does this alter part of the game that has been around for longer than I can remember, but the replacement is nothing short of a gimmick. The same could be said about making the nets bigger. These ideas aren’t being pitched to improve the game, they are being pitched to improve the TV product. Eventually, that type of thinking could work in the opposite direction.
In the long run you want the game to be safe, competitive and entertaining. You don’t want a choreographed sideshow (see: XFL). I know just about every single one of these rules won’t escape the camp.
For example, faceoff dots in the middle of the zone, red mesh and a whistle to start a faceoff. These are strange and silly recommendations that simply alter the great history of the sport too much.
On the other hand you have ideas like the hybrid icing or having teams switch ends in regular season overtime games. Not only are these ideas sound in hockey principle, they have the ability to improve the product.
Why don’t we start with the hybrid icing? It is already being used in United States junior hockey, clearly it isn’t just a spitball idea. In addition, it wouldn’t eliminate the race for the puck that makes NHL icing so intriguing. Finally, you take away the risk of an end-board collision by adapting the early whistle.
There is already a bit of an issue in terms of who touches the puck first on some NHL icings. I don’t think the linesman would add too much guesswork in determining who reached the faceoff dot first under the hybrid rule.
I, for one, think it is brilliant. While I haven’t seen too many injuries due to an icing race, the potential is certainly there. To add to that thought, I love the fact that the NHL allows an icing to be negated, it is a serious advantage for an opposing team. I think allowing the race to be won by the forward earlier may increase the offensive capability of this rule. Don’t be surprised to see this implemented in the AHL in a year or two with the NHL to follow suit shortly after.
I am also in love with making teams switch ends for the overtime period in the regular season. In addition, I like the new tiebreak rule that takes away shootout wins.
You have to switch ends in overtime in the playoffs, making teams do it in the regular season doesn’t really change anything. This proposal has only benefits. You increase the chance for an odd-man opportunity and you increase the chances that the game is finished in team play. The shootout is fun, I am a hockey purist and I am glad that the shootout was added to the regular season.
However, too many teams plan for the shootout. This needs to stop. I think this rule change would be the first step in preventing that. Perhaps the second step would be to eliminate the “loser point” if you reach a shootout. I hate the idea of having three points for a win. But, if you earn a point for an overtime loss but nothing for a shootout loss, what course of action would the teams probably take? We are already making progress.
I am also a proponent of a three-on-three session in regular season overtime. I would have no problem having the four-on-four be followed by a second five-minute period with one less skater per side. Just think, Chicago and Washington remain tied after OT and the Blackhawks put Duncan Keith, Jonathon Toews and Pat Kane out against Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Mike Green. Is that something you might be interested in?
I guess my point is that the NHL needs to carefully evaluate the ideas they tested last week. There are some good ideas that wouldn’t change the game so drastically that it could possibly harm the overall product. Perhaps next year’s camp will shed more light on the ideas that the NHL liked, and didn’t like.