NHL Rule Changes Geared to Ignite Offensive Play
While defense wins games, many people would say that offensive games tend to be more exciting. After originally meeting six months ago, the NHL announced on Thursday a set of rule changes taking effect in the 2014-15 season. Both the NHL's Board of Governors and the Players' Association approved a set of rule changes over the summer. The league is hoping that the following set of alterations will create more offense, and the list of tiny tweaks could definitely produced the desired results. As the above graph illustrates, the number of goals per game has generally been declining since the 2005-06 rule changes after the season-long lockout and has nearly reached its lowest point since the years leading up to the lockout.
Rule 1.8 - Rink - Goalkeeper's Restricted Area
"The trapezoid area will be increased from 18 feet to 22 feet along the goal line." Most goalies have adapted to the restricted area in recent years, and most coaches would prefer goalies to stay within the closer proximity to the net, anyway. This rule likely will not have a large effect on the game's offense, but it leaves open the possibility of a inexperienced goalie stepping out of his post to allow a few more goals.
Rule 24 - Penalty Shot
"The 'spin-o-rama' move, as described in section 24.2 of the 2013-14 NHL Rule Book, will no longer be permitted either in penalty situations or in the shootout." The so-called "spin-o-rama" is when the puck-handler skates toward the goaltender, stops & sprays a wall of ice while turning, & takes his shot at the opposite end of the net. For a beautiful demonstration of a "spin-o-rama," click here. This rule fictitiously creates a more level playing field in the shootout, if that is really possible, and very few players could pull of a complete fake-out stunt like that to begin with!
Rule 38 - Video Goal Judge
Video review is being expanded to give officials broader discretion in a couple notable ways. The first allows "Hockey Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals," for instance, when the referee blows or intends to blow his whistle after losing sight of the puck. Second, it will be more difficult to overrule the on-ice call with respect to "kicked in goals" because the rule will now require more demonstrative video evidence. For the former, Hockey Operations in Toronto will talk to the on-ice officials about the play, and, hopefully it will lead toward increased accuracy (e.g., the controversial goal during the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals Game 2). For the latter, Hockey Operations' broader discretion creates a higher likelihood of it favoring a goal and more room for ambiguity in the long run. Without a clear-cut rule, Operations' determinations could be all over the place.
Rule 57 - Tripping
Old Rule: It was totally legal for defending players to go for the puck from the opponent's stick with basically anything - his hands, legs, feet, or stick - as long as he gets to the puck first. This led to breakaway-halting defensive plays that may be illustrated in the graph above.
New Rule: What was legal in the old rule is a two minute penalty for tripping.
Result: More opportunities to complete breakaways and more power plays, which increase the chance of scoring points. The League wants to give the fans what they want - exciting plays, either by breakaway or power play.
Rule 64 - Diving/Embellishment
Now the rules will combat and directly address "players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale..." The problem with this rule is that it probably will not incentivize the players from conduct the League wishes to deter. $2,000 to $5,000 fines on people earning 100 or more times that amount will have zero effect on defense, resulting in zero change on the scoreboard.
Rule 76 - Faceoffs
The League intends to speed up the faceoff process by granting a two minute penalty for delay of game when, in taking the faceoff, a defensive player commits a second violation. Again, this could increase offensive play because it creates more opportunities for the defensive player to get in the penalty box.
Rule 84 - Overtime
As exciting as shootouts can be, they come at a point where everyone involved and invested in the game is likely tired. It is no wonder that General Managers would prefer games ending in overtime rather than in a shootout. Last season, the United States Hockey League tested out a rule where the teams switched sides of the rink just before overtime began, and it saw a ten percent increase in the number of games ending in overtime instead of moving forward into the shootout. Now, the NHL is following suit and having teams switch ends like it does after the first period. The ice will be "dry scraped" prior to overtime as well.
Rule 85 - Puck Out of Bounds
When the puck goes out of bounds due to the team on offense's actions, the rule change states that the faceoff will take place in the "attacking zone" (i.e., the opposing team's end). The same rule goes for shots that go "out of bounds on shots that break the glass, carom off the net and deflect out of play, go off the boards or glass and deflect out of play, get tipped or deflected out of play by a teammate, or result in the puck getting stuck somewhere in or on the exterior of the goal." Instinctively, this change will create more scoring chances by already beginning in the attacking zone, and when combined with the Rule 76 change, increases the likelihood of faceoff violations.