10 changes that would make the NHL better
10 changes that would make the NHL better
Hockey is one of the most incredible, compelling sports in the world and the best hockey is played in the NHL. As good as it is, however, it is far from perfect. Here are a number of tweaks the NHL can make in order to make it even better.
What's NOT on the list
After the debate over Tom Wilson's hit to Zach Aston-Reese, the idea of a blanket rule banning all contact to the head was bandied about. That, however, would replace one problem with a worse one.
If you're a fan of the NFL, how many times have you seen a player penalized for a hit and asked yourself "what is he supposed to do?" If you put in a blanket headshot policy in the NHL, that's what you would get. Hockey is a fast game and incidental contact happens. Suspensions are not a deterrent if the majority of suspendable hits are accidental.
A blanket rule would put bigger players who are more likely to hit another player's head just because of their size at a tremendous disadvantage. Is Zdeno Chara just not supposed to check anymore? No thanks.
Get rid of the divisional playoff format
Just about everything is wrong with the NHL's current playoff format. Its primary purpose is to set up more matchups between rivals, but how many times have we seen Montreal-Toronto since the format changed? Rangers-Devils? Oilers-Flames? Zero would be the answer.
Forcing these matchups doesn't work. Just let them happen organically with a more logical playoff format.
I'm not ready to do away with conferences completely and seed teams 1 through 16 as that could lead to a first-round cross-country matchup like Vancouver-Tampa Bay. That's a lot to ask of the teams. Keep the conferences, get rid of the divisions, go 1 through 8 and re-seed after each round. Done.
Move the Coyotes to Quebec
How many ways does Arizona have to show the NHL that this just ain't working?
The Coyotes have ranked dead last in home attendance three times since 2010. The highest they ranked during that stretch is 28th. Plus, no one in Arizona seemingly wants to host a new stadium and there is no new arena deal in place.
You know where there is an arena waiting for a hockey team? Quebec City. The Videotron Centre opened in 2015 and can seat over 18,000.
Seattle makes more sense for an expansion team than Quebec, but that should not be the end of Quebec's NHL hopes. There's no reason to keep the Coyotes in Arizona where no one wants them when there is a city north of the border that absolutely does.
Move the Red Wings back to the Western Conference
Moving to the Eastern Conference made all the sense in the world for Detroit logistically, but if Arizona moves to Quebec someone would have to move west. The Red Wings are the perfect candidate.
Who doesn't miss the Detroit-Chicago rivalry? Or how about Detroit-Colorado? Detroit-Dallas? Detroit-St. Louis? All of those matchups move the needle more than any of the team's current divisional rivals.
Sorry, but no one is really tuning in for the big Red Wings-Panthers matchup.
Restore the old rivalries and move the Red Wings back West where they belong.
Equal odds for all teams in the draft lottery
It makes sense for the worst team in the NHL to get the best draft odds—logic would indicate the last place team needs the most help—but as long there is a benefit to being in last place, you should expect teams to tank and that's not good for anyone. You should never have a system that rewards teams for intentionally trying to lose as much as possible or give fans a reason to root against their own team.
Take away the odds and give every team that misses the playoffs the same chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick. That way, there is no incentive to lose. If there's no benefit to being the worst team in the league, then no one will actively try to be that team.
Bring all GMs to one location with no games on the trade deadline
Why do trades get done during the draft? Because all the general managers are in the same place. The seeds of a big trade can be formed just by a casual conversation.
Fans and media alike treat the trade deadline like a major holiday, but the NHL does not take advantage. Games are played on deadline day, but those games are largely overshadowed by trade news.
Bring all the general managers together for two days with the trade deadline on the second day and have no games that night. That would create an opportunity for more trades and allow the NHL to cash in on a big media day.
This is a day the NHL should own in terms of media, it's not a day for business as usual.
Bring back the All-Star draft
The All-Star draft was must-see television. With four captains picking for a 3-on-3 tournament, it would be even more compelling now.
Each team would be required to draft two goalies, but that's it. Want to draft all forwards? Go for it. Want all the defensemen? Go nuts.
There always seems to be a hesitancy to broadcast this kind of an event so as not to embarrass the last player drafted, but why should that player care? You are an NHL All-Star. Why would it matter where you get selected? If players get upset over it, then they are being overly sensitive and that's no reason to ruin a good thing like the All-Star draft. Play it like Alex Ovechkin did when he petitioned to be taken last in 2015. Have fun with it!
Expand regular season overtime to 10 minutes
Let's face it, the shootout has lost its luster and it just feels like contrived drama and a dull skills competition. Three-on-three overtime, however, is amazing. Let's have more of that and fewer shootouts.
By expanding 3-on-3 overtime to 10 minutes, the vast majority of overtime games would end before the shootout. There is, of course, a concern that this would be too much of a strain on the players, but that would force coaches to open their benches leading to more drama.
As much as I hate the shootout, you can't get rid of it altogether. A 0-0 tie may fly in soccer, but hockey should not allow this to even be a possibility in today's NHL. Having said that, the fewer shootouts and more overtime we see, the better.
Soccer style review
The NHL's current review system of offside and goalie interference is garbage.
Defining how a sport can best utilize replay is tricky, but soccer got it right. Soccer's VAR system put in place a team of people to review calls and notify a referee only if a clear error occurred.
No more coaches' challenges, no more horrible calls that can't be reviewed, no more reviewing offside calls frame by frame to see if a player's skate was a millimeter in the air. Instead, a referee would be notified to review any call only when a clear error was made and can choose whether or not to overturn it.
It wouldn't eliminate every wrong call, but you will never find any system that can. Instead, this would eliminate all the obvious bad calls.
Move the opening face-off at the start of a period during power plays
When a team commits a penalty, the ensuing face-off is in their defensive zone giving an immediate advantage to the team on the power play. Why does that not apply at the start of a period?
If a team commits a penalty near the end of a period and the remaining time will overlap to the next period, the shorthanded team gets a boost when the clock hits zero because the puck is automatically taken out of the defensive zone and the opening face-off will be at center ice.
The penalty killers already get a break by getting a chance to rest at intermission, they should not get the puck cleared too.
Teams can take a power play instead of a penalty shot
In situations that call for a penalty shot, there is a definite benefit. The success rate of penalty shots last season was 38.8-percent, obviously much higher than the standard power play success. Still, there are situations in which it would actually benefit a team more to get the power play instead.
For a team with a one-goal lead in the third period, for example, getting two minutes to milk the clock helps more than just getting a penalty shot. When a team commits a penalty, there should be no benefit to it for the offending team, but that's what they get by hauling down a player on a breakaway on net. Giving teams the option of taking the penalty shot or the power play instead makes sure that team gest the greatest benefit.