IS THE NHL LISTENING ?  FANS SPEAK OUT

  Poll results revealed

 

"If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."

        - Prof. Irwin Corey, ( 1914 - present ) -

 

        The response to Puckin' Around's first ever online Poll was overwhelming and filled with opinions from truly remarkable hockey fans.  From Yellowknife all the way to Finland, readers made some excellent points, many of which I decided to include in this column, along with the results of the poll.  Some comments had to be edited to keep this column as tight as possible, but I made sure to keep the opinion & ideas behind them intact.  One thing's for sure, most hockey fans are traditionalists, and hate to see changes done for the sake of change alone.  In the NHL's continuing effort to dumb-down its game to attract more fans, it is in danger of losing its core: The faithful fans who have stood by the mockery our game has now become.  I for one, am starting to wonder if the NHL is even listening to its fans while it tries so hard to gain our confidence & trust in the media war we're currently subjected to concerning the upcoming CBA negotiations.

        We are not out of the rink yet, and many more controversial proposals are forthcoming, but I have to remind the NHL looking for fan support at this time is futile & a great waste of time.  Fans aren't looking to lay blame and don't care who is right & who is wrong.  Fans want hockey, the sooner, the better.  Enough trying to win us over, get in your offices & work something out already !

        Without further ado, the results to the Improvement Poll:

    The majority seems to like the idea of taking out the red line to help open up the game & make it difficult to set up the trap.  Many of you praised what it did on the International front, while others were quick to point out International competition has also become a defense-first system.

     The widest margin of the whole poll. Pretty much says it all - nobody wants to see the size of the nets increase.  Seems too desperate a measure, along with making pucks smaller & only allowing midgets to play goalie.

     The majority would like to see goalies shed a few inches.  Most of you found this could be a way to increase goal scoring, whereas I am skeptical.  My opinion is goalies are able to move a lot faster than they did years ago since they no longer have to wear pads which soak up water & triple in weight by the time the periods reach the 2 minute mark.  They are lighter, more agile, and work with their own coaches.  Goaltending has become a position of angles & rebound-control.  Although I think there should be a cap on the size of their equipment, I don't think goal-scoring is down simply because of the extra 2 inches on pads the league proposes to cut.

    "The equipment is larger and more protective than in the past, but players also shoot harder today for a number of reasons. Should the goalies not be suitably protected? The fact goals are down has a lot more to do with talent and modern goaltending fundamentals, coupled with the defensive systems teams implement, than it does with the size of goalie equipment."
- Dave White, Yellowknife -


     The majority wants the tag-up rule re-implemented in the game.  This will do wonders to keep the flow going, as Gary Bettman himself said: "The sense in the room is the tag-up offsides will lead to less whistles."  How this will improve scoring is anyone's guess, as it seems the league is facilitating the dump & chase system with its new rule proposals.  The dump & chase system was about as popular as the trap is now, and the reason this rule was implemented in the first place.
 

     I think everyone who watches regularly would agree this rule will save at least one player's career.  This should be implemented right away.  I don't think anyone would protest it.

     The readers were split on this one.  I think the main reason for it is alone, this change makes no difference, but with other rules implemented, such as goalies not being able to play the puck, this change could be good for the game.  The bottom line is, how many goals are scored from behind the net ?  Reducing the space behind it would make cycling the puck harder & give players in front a bit more room to get open.

     It's funny how one of the changes the league seems the most bent on is so overwhelmingly contested here.  Surely, all the readers answering aren't New Jersey Devils fans !  This will increase injuries more than it will increase offence.  The NHL is only looking at this from one side, only seeing how goalies good at handling the puck act like defenseman & stifle the opposing team's offence by stopping the dump-in & throwing the puck right back out of the zone.  What the NHL doesn't realize is how beneficial this is not only to the defenseman who has to pick up the puck in his zone, but also his team breaking out quicker - resulting in a rush, meaning offense.  Only a few goaltenders are adept at handling the puck like a third defenseman; after Brodeur, Belfour, DiPietro, Turco & Brathwaite, most of them are awkward handling it.  Just ask Marc-Andre Fleury !  I have to wonder about the motivation of the GMs who support this change.  Ken Holland, Detroit's GM was very vocal about it, and since you need a stick to handle the puck if you're a goaltender, this rule hardly affects Hasek's abilities.  Would Holland & co be pushing for this rule if they had Brodeur on their rosters ?

     "The biggest joke is not allowing the goalie to play the puck behind the goal line which is ridiculous and why should be self-explanatory for anyone who has played defense in hockey. The goalie stops the puck and gives you that much extra time to get it out or make a pass to break out of your zone."
- Gord McKercher, Yellowknife -

     "It's like telling a pitcher he can't throw curveballs because we need home runs"
- Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils -
 

     Fans aren't so much for shootouts, but would like to see it implemented to force teams to go for the win in OT.  One reader was willing to suffer triple overtime during the regular season, something TV networks wince at, I'm sure.

     "Although I find the shootout exciting, I would prefer to not see it in the NHL. Having said that, I think we see to many teams playing for a tie. A 5 mins of 4 on 4, followed by a shootout would force teams to play for the win and it might add excitement to the end of a game, as seen in World competitions. I would not want to see this rule included in the playoffs, which must remain play to win!!"
- anonymous -



 

    The idea of giving 3 points for a win doesn't fly with traditionalists.  Neither does serving the full 2 minutes of a penalty.  No extra point for an OT win or an OT loss seems to be the consensus.  The idea behind allowing a point after a regulation tie was to encourage teams to go all out for the extra point.  Nice try.

    The most surprising results of all.  Seems like a third of the readers would like to see the goaltenders be fair game.  This would definitely cause goalies to think twice about coming out of their crease, and create offence once a goalie would get knocked down by a punishing hit.  It would also increase injuries to goaltenders, as they are already punished enough by being knocked into their own nets when players come crashing in.

    The majority agree, 4 eyes are better than 2, but still not effective enough.

    The AHL is currently trying this out, and so far, goal scoring hasn't increased.

     The biggest joke of the proposed rule changes is the fatter lines, what is it going to do, they will be in the same place, widening them isn't going to magically produce goals.
- Gord McKercher, Yellowknife -


    This rule alone is not clear enough.  How much will be allowable as far as a net being off ?  Will a goal stand if any player knocks off the net ?  This rule brings with it a lot of video-replay, and I'm getting flashbacks of the dreadful "foot in the crease" era.

     "Many what ifs. For instance goal stands unless net is off unless the goaltender hits the net off."
 - Stephane St-Martin, Orleans -


    The consensus is while every fan wants to see an increase in scoring, they do not want to see it at the expense of the game's integrity.  The NHL should consider this before altering the game we have all come to love.  Surely if the NHL can afford spending $1.5 million on a team of independent financial advisors & lawyers to go over the revenues & losses of each team, it can surely find the capital to fund a team who can look & find exactly what caused goal scoring to come down, as well as what could be done to increase it again, instead of proposing a bunch of rule changes & hoping to hit the bulls eye with a lucky shot...  This idea, coming from a fan of the game, will fall on the NHL's deaf ears & is unfortunately, wishful thinking.  I leave you now with a final reader-submitted quote, and my usual Randumb Thoughts.

     "The rapid improvement in goaltender skill and subsequent decline in goals against average, or goal scoring across the league, is merely a function of goaltending improving. Those affected by the change will adapt in time, the goal scorers of the NHL are no different; already new sticks have been introduced, new offensive strategies, and players consistently shooting high in the net when ‘in tight’ are some examples. Now whether fans of the NHL are willing to wait for the players to adjust, or not, is another issue."
- Dave White Yellowknife -

RANDUMB THOUGHTS

Punishing Fans (Rimouski Oceanic):  The Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL have hit an all-time low, announcing they will sit league-leading scorer & superstar Sidney Crosby for the next 2 road games against Lewiston & Drumondville.  The Oceanic contend referees have allowed too much physical abuse of their superstar and say Crosby draws extra attention from opponents and requires additional protection from the officials.  It's also worth mentioning  games featuring the Oceanic have been playing at an average 103% capacity this year, with fans wanting to see the 16-year old phenom.  Both games are sellouts, but the biggest sellout of them all seems to be Crosby & the Oceanic.

 

Hope For Rangers (Jason LaBarbera):  LaBarbera broke a 61-year-old American Hockey League record with his 10th shutout of the season in the Wolf Pack's 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms Friday night.  The old record of nine shutouts belonged to Gordie Bell in 1942-43.  LaBarbera plays for Hartford, the New York Rangers' farm team which brings the question, why hasn't he played more than 10 minutes for the Blueshirts this year ?

 

Quitter Eyeing Comeback (Shayne Corson):  After walking out on his team in the playoffs last year, Shayne Corson has just announced he is eyeing a return, with several teams interested.  Hopefully, none of these teams are looking help in the playoffs.  In his final 3 years, Corson appeared in 32 playoff games with Toronto, scoring a grand total of 2 goals !  Toronto, always willing to add depth, have already expressed they have no interest in picking up Corson.

 

Hypocrisy 101 (Patrick Roy):  So St. Patrick all of a sudden takes a stance on goaltending equipment saying: "I'm not going to have a lot of friends after what I'm going to say, but I think the goalies should go back to 10-inch pads.  You barely see the net when you come in on the angle, and I think that's what the shooters need. They need to see a bit of the mesh."  How thoughtful of Roy, one of the game's biggest cheaters of all-time.  It was Roy who used to wear 14 inch pads, a jersey 4 sizes too large (to help trap the puck between his body & arm) and extra 2-inch blocks on the side of his pants to take up more room.  Roy was also one of the first goalies to push snow on the side of his posts to  slow down the puck's progress on wraparounds !  How nice of him coming clean once he's retired !  Memo to Patrick:  What you are hearing right behind you is Martin Brodeur catching up to your records !

 

You Never Know When You've Played Your Last Game (Al MacInnis):  Sportsnet.ca has just reported Blues defenseman Al MacInnis' days may be over in the NHL.  Explaining how he has lost some of his peripheral vision because of extensive nerve damage in his left eye, Blues captain Al MacInnis said there is still no way of telling when - or even if - he'll return to playing hockey.  He added his field of vision is so poor he can't practice with the team because he can't see what's coming over his left shoulder.  This is terrible news for the Blues & all fans of MacInnis.  As of February 1st, MacInnis was 28th on the NHL's All-Time Scoring list with 1274 pts.  This also ranks him as 3rd in all defensemen, behind Paul Coffey & Ray Bourque.
 

Quote of the Week (Conan O'Brien in Toronto):

“ When they like a joke here, they say 'Ha, ha, ha, ha.  Go Leafs Go !' "

 

Agree ?  Disagree ?  Comments ?  Questions ?  Hate Mail ?  Mail me here: ular@puckinaround.net