Our proposals for NHL's New Rules
Overtime losses skew points totals and make records harder to measure
Higher-seeded teams should get their choice of playoff home-ice format
Size of the ice doesn't need to be changed, but the current use of it does
From time to time (mostly in the summer when sources are all but unreachable and the news dribbles down to being as soft as the ice at Madison Square Garden), we hockey scribes tend to try and reflect a bit as to where the game is, where it's going and where it should be going.
With that in mind, we sometimes play the "New Rules" game. But unlike the screeds from Bill Maher, the sometimes X-rated host of Real Time on HBO, there's no need to send the children out of the room or -- unless you're a hockey purist -- even to recoil in adult horror at our dealings with "blue" lines.
For this edition, we consulted with long-time hockey coach, administrator, occasional equipment rep and friend Peter South for a look not so much at new rules that simply add to an already overburdened and only occasionally enforced NHL Rules book, but a tweaking of some existing rules with an eye toward making the game better, faster and, in terms of points at least, a little more palatable.
New Rule No. 1: Regular-season standings must change
As currently structured, the NHL has what amounts to two-point games some of the time and three-point games the rest of the time. The result has been a mess regarding trying to figure out the standings in your local newspaper and some claims of "jury rigging" regarding the way the game is played in the third period when, especially late in the season, playing for a regulation tie to get a chance at two points in overtime or the extended skills competition known as a "shootout" becomes something akin to a norm.
In the most often used scenario, a team is accused of playing for one and then going for two via the specialty aspects of the game (the four-on-four or the shootout). It appears to be standard practice for teams comfortably ahead of certain opponents in the standings and it negates the win-at-all cost games so necessary for teams attempting to move up into a playoff position or teams attempting to get into the perceived home-ice advantage that a top-four conference finish can provide.
In short, the current system often skewers the true measure of measured success in the regular season prompting calls from everything from a return to two-points-a-win, one-point-a-tie structure of years gone by to variations of three, four and even five-point systems (three for a win in regulation, two for a win and one for a loss in extra time and zero for a regulation loss being an oft-proposed example.)
Our proposal: If a game is tied after the traditional 60 minutes, it is recorded as what it is: a tie. Should a team prevail with an extra goal in overtime or a shootout a team is awarded "bonus points," points that are noted as such in the standings. In that scenario, there would be no "Win" recorded in the standings or personal coaching or goalie stats for a victory in extra-session time.
The NHL points with pride to the fact there have been tight playoff races, but much of that comes from the inflated "win" stats from victories in OT and the shootout. These wins have given teams an edge in the standings over teams who have won more 60-minute games, yet find themselves skewered in the points column because of overtime or shootout points. Since "wins" are the first measure of division, conference and overall standings after total points, there have been occasions where a team with more wins in regular season is displaced in the standings by a team that collects more overtime or shootout wins or a combination of both.
Under our three-point system, this would be eliminated, as would the inflated coaching and goalie career-win totals. Try that on for size when you argue who has more goalie wins, Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur, or you want to calculate who should really surpass Scott Bowman as the winningest coach of all time.
New Rule No. 2: Team options on the playoff seedings and formats
What does it benefit a team to finish first in division, conference or overall? Sure, Detroit got the coveted home ice in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, but Pittsburgh, much farther down in the standings due to its poor start, won that game. Pittsburgh also beat the higher seeded Washington Capitals in a Game 7 Conference semifinal and that was on Washington's home ice, just as lower-seeded Carolina beat Northeast Division and Conference leader Boston in a Game 7 in Boston.
Hockey once dabbled with a 2-3-2 playoff format but, for much of its history, has used the traditional 2-2-1-1-1 format, supposedly for the perceived home-ice advantage to the higher seeded teams (higher seeds getting the first two at home). But high-seed upsets are not at all uncommon or even unusual in the NHL today, and teams that open on the road in a playoff series often talk openly about the advantages of opening away from home (less pressure to please the home fans, scrambles for tickets to appease friends, the inevitable and necessary demands from the marketing people and the hometown media for interview requests).
NHL Truth & Rumors