Let me begin by saying there’s a lot to love about what we’re seeing on the ice as of late within the NHL.
I’ve spent quite a lot of my 28 years overlaying the NHL reporting on methods to enhance the sport, however it’s vital to scent the roses when issues are good.
As I wrote about not too long ago, we’ve obtained goals galore this season, the league by means of Tuesday evening averaging 6.31 objectives per sport, essentially the most since 1993-94 (6.48). Further, the league by means of Tuesday evening was averaging a 22.5 % success price on the ability performs, the very best proportion since 1980-81 (22.6 %).
Some of the newest video games are emblematic of a wacky NHL season stuffed with lead adjustments and, in fact, objectives galore.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 8, 2022
Now, I do anticipate that a few of these numbers will dip a bit within the second half as playoff races tighten and groups concentrate on the sort of sport that has extra success within the postseason. Still, that is the sport at present, the place most groups’ fourth strains are populated by skaters who go 100 miles an hour. It’s ability and pace in all places and goalies are having nightmares.
Again, let me stress, the sport is enjoyable to look at.
But that doesn’t imply there aren’t adjustments, on and off the ice, that will make it even higher.
About every year, I placed on my commissioner-for-a-day hat and lay out adjustments I’d like to see. I encourage our readers so as to add some concepts of their very own within the feedback part beneath.
In the spirit of the vacations, right here’s a six-pack of adjustments I’d like to see:
1. Fix the factors system
One of the explanations I continuously remind folks of the distinction between shedding streaks (all losses in regulation) and winless streaks (extra time/shootout factors gained) is to level out that the NHL just isn’t a win-loss league with regards to tabling its standings. It’s a points-accumulation league.
As I prefer to say, a group might lose 82 video games in extra time or a shootout, and whereas it wouldn’t make the playoffs, these 82 factors would have been ok for twenty first general in a 32-team league final season. That’s for 82 video games with out a win!
This is why I’ve lengthy maintained the necessity for the NHL to rethink its factors system. I reminded our readers in April, that the NHL really did think about a 3-2-1 factors system virtually 19 years in the past at a slightly well-known assembly of basic managers in Henderson, Nevada — a gathering that pushed for a variety of rule adjustments that modified the sport.
Many folks neglect the NHL flirted with the concept of a 3-2-1 factors system 18 years in the past at probably the most well-known GMs conferences in league historical past.
All these years later, @PierreVLeBrun ponders how completely different the NHL would look with three-point wins.
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) April 19, 2022
Three factors for a regulation win was beneficial at that assembly in February 2004, as one of many many new concepts the NHL ought to think about to revamp the sport, however it was left on the chopping room ground on the opposite aspect of the 2004-05 lockout. So whereas the shootout (and its loser level) made an entry for 2005-06, three factors for a 60-minute win didn’t. Too dangerous.
The argument in opposition to the 3-2-1 system has been that some groups could be eradicated by Christmas if the cream was actually allowed to rise to the highest with 60-minute, three-point wins. To which I say, so what? The present factors system distorts actuality. I really consider the wage cap has created a reasonably good degree of parity across the NHL — a minimum of among the many high 20 to 24 groups each season. Why the necessity to artificially add extra parity with a truncated factors system?
Either go 3-2-1 or go old style, with two factors for a win and 0 factors for any sort of loss. I desire 3-2-1 as a result of shedding a three-on-three OT session or a shootout is sort of gimmicky, so the shedding group ought to get some extent.
The different fascinating factor about three factors for 60 minutes could be how some groups chasing factors in March may react come the third interval, realizing there’s three factors for a 60-minute win on the desk. It is likely to be enjoyable. Either approach, it’s time to alter the factors system for the standings.
2. Go again to convention playoffs
The present playoff system, which sees the highest three groups in every division make the playoffs plus two wild playing cards in every convention, has been in place because the 2013-14 season. Don’t prefer it. I’ll give the league a break right here as a result of I do not forget that the unique thought through the 2012-13 lockout, when the format was being reimagined, was to go to full divisional playoffs just like the NHL had within the Eighties (which I don’t thoughts), however the NHL Players’ Association was involved over the equity of some groups with fewer factors moving into the postseason over groups with extra factors, relying on the power of the divisions. The wild card half was introduced in as a hybrid answer, which didn’t clear up something.
Either return to the total convention playoffs (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, and so forth.) or go to full divisional playoffs (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3 in every of the 4 divisions).
What we now have now has to go. I feel the fairest system is full convention playoffs, as we had from the 1993-94 season to 2012-13. It labored for a few years. I get that the journey will be a difficulty and that you just don’t at all times benefit from divisional rivalries in a convention playoff format, however it’s extra democratic to make certain.
What one hopes to keep away from right here is 2 juggernaut groups assembly within the very first spherical.
By the way in which, if you happen to’re curious about studying up on the NHL’s historical past of playoff format adjustments, the league retains a document here.
It goes with out saying that I additionally favor a “play-in” to be added forward of the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs, and I’m not alone. But I gained’t elaborate on that once more right here. It needs to be apparent why it’s time to go there.
Do you like the concept of a play-in earlier than the Stanley Cup playoffs?@PierreVLeBrun polled the board of governors, however none of them wished focus on it on the document.
— The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) December 14, 2022
3. Eliminate the trapezoid
The Martin Brodeur legacy rule, which got here into impact in 2005, can go now.
(Maybe blame Marty Turco, too).
As a (intelligent) measure to stop a few of the NHL’s higher puck-handling goalies from thwarting opposing groups’ forechecks, the NHL added the trapezoid behind the online limiting the realm the place the goalie might play a puck, which is to say he might not play the puck within the corners.
The rule really made sense popping out of the Dead Puck Era. It was a strategy to create a bit extra offense if forechecking groups might get to extra pucks on dump-ins or power defensemen chasing again into errors. But the sport has modified a lot now, with the pace and ability all through every group’s lineup, I truthfully don’t suppose goalies venturing out to deal with dump-ins within the nook would have the identical impact.
In reality, with the pace of each skater within the NHL at present, I ponder what number of blunders goalies may skate into attempting to race down a puck chase within the nook.
It was a rule that made sense for 2005. But not. I do know that some GMs have really had this dialog on the GMs conferences over the previous a number of years. Eliminate the trapezoid. Let the goalies roam wherever they need.
4. Allow groups to retain extra wage in trades
Teams are allowed to retain a most of fifty % of a participant’s wage/common annual worth in a commerce. I wanted a refresher from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly through electronic mail this week, although: Why 50 %?
“The thought process was we didn’t want to allow any retained-salary transactions in the first place,” Daly wrote. “We ultimately got comfortable accepting the concept but wanted to put strong guardrails around it.”
Which is sensible. When you’re ranging from some extent of permitting zero retained wage, it’s most likely greatest to cap it at a sure quantity and study the impression on the system. And now that I look again, the primary cap system in 2005 didn’t have retained wage as a operate. That got here in a while after some GMs pushed for it.
So let’s go subsequent degree now.
This may sound loopy, however why not enable groups to retain as much as one hundred pc wage/AAV in trades? It will surely assist facilitate extra trades across the NHL and assist thaw the logjam with so many groups on the cap and/or utilizing long-term injured reserve — particularly throughout this flat-cap atmosphere created by the pandemic.
My thought right here is that even at one hundred pc wage retained, the cash itself continues to be accounted for inside the general exhausting cap system.
The league’s largest worry is cash outdoors the system. As lengthy because the group retaining one hundred pc of a participant’s wage can account for the cap hit underneath the higher restrict, I say why not? Because in return, the group keen to retain one hundred pc wage/AAV on a participant in a commerce might additionally mark up the sort of asset it will get in return. Automatic first-round decide worth for retaining one hundred pc of a participant’s wage/AAV? One would suppose so.
Imagine the creativity at play, to not point out the bigger variety of trades occurring in-season, if this was an choice.
I suppose the counter-argument right here is that contenders including a “free” participant would go in opposition to the spirit of the CBA and would really feel like a cap circumvention. Imagine the Avalanche being allowed so as to add Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks conserving one hundred pc of his $10.5 million cap hit. OK, however that additionally price the Avs an additional first-round decide and perhaps extra? Plus, I imply, with regards to the spirit of the CBA and the cap, I feel groups’ LTIR creativity the previous few years, benefiting from no wage cap within the playoffs, has already set the bar.
5. Move up the beginning of free company
It is definitely a welcome sight to see the opening of free company again on July 1 this 12 months after having it at odd occasions the previous three years due to the pandemic (Oct. 9 in 2020, July 28 in 2021 and July 13 final summer time).
But that doesn’t change the truth that, as I’ve been saying for 15-plus years, it’s by no means made sense that NHL free company opens on the July 1 Canadian nationwide vacation, when folks produce other issues to do.
With the July 4 U.S. vacation a couple of days later, and different huge signings typically sliding over a couple of days, the identical level applies.
The league shouldn’t bury a few of its splashiest information objects of the 12 months throughout summer time holidays on each side of the border
Now, from a technical standpoint, I get it. Players’ contracts expire on June 30 at midnight. So July 1 represents the authorized begin of the brand new season. Understood. But I’m positive some inventive minds can work out a strategy to have contracts expire on June 27 or 28, a minimum of, for the aim of free company. Even simply transferring it up a couple of days on the calendar would assist the NHL maximize media consideration.
Granted, subsequent offseason is a foul instance, as a result of the NHL draft in Nashville goes on June 28 and 29. So there’s no wiggle room there. But in most conventional NHL seasons, the draft goes the third week of June. My argument could be to then open free company round June 27 or 28. Most of the larger objects are sewn up inside 24 to 48 hours.
And bang, let’s all benefit from the July 1 and July 4 holidays. It’s a no brainer.
6. Award the Stanley Cup by May 31
You have to return to May 25, 1991, when Pittsburgh crushed Minnesota 8-0 to wrap up Mario Lemieux’s first of back-to-back Stanley Cups, to seek out the final time the NHL season ended earlier than June (the Penguins gained the Cup on June 1 the next season).
Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers gained their first Stanley Cup on May 19, 1984. I used to be 12. I bear in mind it vividly. Imagine, May 19! That was the norm again then. But it’s been June Stanley Cups from 1992 on. It’s by no means felt proper to me. Walking right into a rink in scorching summer time climate in June when crucial video games of the season had been about to be performed, it’s at all times boggled my thoughts.
The answer is slightly easy. Let’s begin the NHL common season three weeks earlier. This season, the puck dropped on Oct. 11. So let’s drop the puck on Sept. 20 or so.
Is there a strategy to shorten camps and preseason with out affecting the underside line for golf equipment? Obviously, gamers wouldn’t need to report back to camp earlier than Labor Day. I get that. But I feel there’s nonetheless loads of time between Labor Day and Sept. 20 to cram in camp and a preseason schedule. And let’s be sincere, too. Training camp itself has outgrown its true worth when you think about how gamers at present are year-round bodily specimens. And the wage cap just about dictates who makes the roster. There aren’t any actual jobs of notice out there at camp, come on.
Drop the puck on Sept. 20. Award the Stanley Cup by May 31. Let’s refill the month of June with offseason exercise from the draft and trades and signing and firings and hirings.
It makes a lot sense.
(Top photograph: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)