The regular season is finished and the NHL playoffs are well under way, so we’re running out of time to cut into Gary Bettman; better take advantage while we still can.
The league set out this year to speed up the game and increase scoring, and generally speaking, Bettman succeeded in his pursuit of a higher-scoring game.
The NHL has averaged approximately one extra goal per game, creating more action and extending an “anything-can-happen” sentiment throughout the league.
The removal of the red line has led to exhilarating scoring chances, and the prohibition of line changes after an icing call has created the offensive edge needed to tip the scale, especially in close, late-game scenarios.
However, many of the changes seem unfitting to the league’s original scheme for the “new NHL,” as scoring has increased through means other than originally anticipated.
The new-look NHL was supposed to resemble an even older-look game: the speedy league which predated the days of 260-pound defencemen slowing up forwards in the offensive zone.
Especially in the United States, where a faster-paced game is preferred, fans were tired of the grinding style of play that existed before the lockout, a style which emphasized physicality above speed.
Instead, the new rules have acted as a catalyst for scoring behind the net and on the power play.
The so-called “trapezoid rule,” which prevents goaltenders from playing the puck in the corner, has made the dump-in far more effective, and the delay of game penalty, which prevents defencemen from shooting the puck over the glass, has made it tougher to clear the zone.
However, these changes emphasize a possession game rather than the desired back-and-forth action.
Referees have been instructed to crack down on interference and obstruction, but these penalties have been primarily in and around the net, rather than in the open ice.
The result has been a plethora of deflections, wraparounds and scrappy goals, rather than tallies resulting from breakaways and odd-man rushes.
Although the league has succeeded in increasing scoring, if it really wants to speed up play it needs to focus on obstruction and interference in the open ice, letting defencemen fight behind the net, while ensuring they can’t slow forwards down as they streak into the zone.