Writers, broadcasters give suggestions on how NHL can get even better
Ever since the NHL instituted the overtime period in 1983-84, it seems like the league has attempted to tweak things in order to get it right.
• They added a "loser's point" and changed to 4-on-4 hockey in 1999-2000.
• Shootouts began in 2005, eliminating ties.
• Still not getting the results they wanted, owners adopted 3-on-3 overtime in 2015-16.
Three-on-3 has been wildly popular and has greatly reduced the number of games going to a shootout, but if I could make one change to the league it would be to tweak this phase of the game once again.
Three players on each side is not hockey. It gives too many advantages to teams that are uniquely suited to use such a format.
And there's no way a shootout should determine an all-important standings point.
My solution would be to go back to 4-on-4, but play it for 10 minutes. If the game's still tied, then it ends that way. One analyst I talked with said 10 minutes is too long, so I'd be OK going with seven or eight as well.
I could go either way on the loser's point, or could see adopting a 3-2-1-0 format to the standings. (Three points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime win, 1 for an overtime loss, zero for a regulation loss.)
So that's the one thing I'd do if I could rubber stamp a change to the league. As we conclude our mini-series on this subject, let's see what other writers and broadcasters said ...
Jimmy Greenfield of the Chicago Tribune and Chris Kuc of the Athletic:
Both want to extend 3-on-3 overtimes to 10 minutes.
Greenfield: "Three-on-3 hockey is fantastic. If the NHL changed to only 3-on-3 for the entire game, count me in. So the idea the NHL rushes through the best display of their most skilled players makes no sense."
Kuc: "I was wrong, wrong, wrong about 3-on-3 play in overtime. I thought it would be too gimmicky, but it has turned out to be fun and exciting and is so much better than the skills competition that is a shootout."
Chris Boden, WGN-720 AM:
I want to see a full five-minute overtime; not the first team that scores and then the game is over. If it's tied after that, then you go to a shootout. Think of how exciting the overtime is as it is. Let it run the full five minutes and then we'll see some other guys out there too to see what they can do.
Barry Rozner, the Daily Herald:
(We wanted to limit everyone to one idea, but we're giving Barry a bit of leeway seeing as how he's played the game since he was 5 and he's also our columnist.)
• Get rid of the instigator penalty and the trapezoid. They've only made the game more dangerous.
• Make the first and third periods the long change from the benches. That could conceivably increase scoring, which is all Gary Bettman seems to care about when he's not locking out the players.
• Once Seattle starts play and the divisions are even again, go back to a 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 format for the playoffs. That breeds real hatred and hatred is good for postseason series.
• And finally, whatever happened to hitting? Is it against the Bettman Ballet policy? Bring back physical play.
Mark Lazerus, The Athletic:
"The first thing I'd do is implement a 3-2-1 points system. I know coaches and GMs love the faux parity created by the current system, but it's absurd when 25 teams are at .500 or better. Also, mandate there be hot chocolate in every press box."
Scott Powers, The Athletic:
If the NHL really cares about the safety and long-term health of its players, the league should ban fighting. You can't say we want to deter head shots and protect players from concussions and then continue to allow them to punch each other with their bare fists in the head.
I get why players feel strongly otherwise, but this shouldn't be up to them. There are legal ways to retaliate and protect teammates in what is already a contact sport. You have to trust the league will fine and suspend players for dangerous play.
Fighting is banned in every other major sport, including contact ones like football, and players deal with it. The NHL shouldn't be any different.
Emily Kaplan, espn.com:
I'd expand the playoffs to 20 teams. The last two seeds for each conference have to play a one-game, MLB Wild Card-style play-in game to get into the full tournament.
It would make the final few weeks of the regular season more entertaining as more teams are in the mix and the jostling for seeding carries extra weight. The two play-in games would be must-see TV, meaning better exposure for the league. Oh, and ESPN would obviously broadcast it.
Pat Foley, Blackhawks play-by-play announcer:
I'd get rid of the bye week. You've got all these situations where you play six games in nine days, you play 7 in 11. Take those days and spread them through the year.
It's unfair to the athletes. There's a better chance for fans leaving a game to say, "Oh, that was awesome." Instead of seeing maybe two exhausted teams, maybe one team. I think it increases injuries and I don't think it leads to better play. So I would say take those five days and spread them out through the year.
Charlie Roumeliotis, NBC Sports Chicago:
The NHL should adopt a labor system similar to MLB's. Soft salary cap, luxury tax, no floor and more widespread revenue sharing.
I believe this would help level out player salaries on the open market, maintain competitive balance in the long run, eliminates the need for an escrow system and avoids cap circumventions. And as a result, long-term labor stability and no more work stoppages.
Troy Murray, former Blackhawks forward and WGN 720-AM color analyst:
I would put the red line back in. It's become too easy to just fire pucks down the ice and deflect them at the far blue line. It gives you an easy way out.
Putting the red line back in would create more turnovers, it would create more opportunities if you didn't have that ability to stretch the zone and fire it out. It would force people to make more plays, and it would slow the game down just enough where it wouldn't hurt the game but it may take some of the injuries out of it.
Steve Konroyd, former Blackhawks defenseman and TV analyst:
I'd get rid of the home morning skates. It's archaic. I think they started it back in the 40s and 50s when guys would go out and party. It would be a way to make sure they weren't doing anything crazy the night before. Guys don't do that anymore. Guys realize it's a business and it's a high-paying occupation. Every once in a while on the road, it's OK for a little team unity. But at home, morning skates are just a waste of time.
Scott King, NHL.com:
I'd let players participate in the Olympics again. It's a big honor for them to represent their country on such a big stage, it's incredibly fun to watch and it's much-needed publicity for the sport and league.
Mike Russo, covers the Minnesota Wild for The Athletic:
I'd definitely change back to 1-8 playoff seeding and abandon divisional format. I'd also buy a map to learn where Dallas and Calgary are so there are no more Minnesota-Dallas, Calgary-Minnesota back to backs.
Brian Hedger, the Columbus Dispatch:
The offsides rule should change so that the player's skate can be hovering over the blue line as he enters the offensive zone. The line is there to demarcate where your body needs to be and where the puck needs to be in order for you to not be offsides. What is the difference between a skate not being on the ice and one that is? So ridiculous.
Jason Lieser, Chicago Sun-Times:
Replay review is good for the game because everyone wants to get the calls right, but the NHL needs to make offside violations non-reviewable.
It's brutal watching a game and seeing a goal waved off because of a something that happened 30 seconds earlier and often has nothing to do with how the goal-scoring shot came together. What, so the last 30 seconds I just watched were make-believe? Technically getting it across the blue line without a whistle did help create the opportunity, but if it's so negligible that the player gets away with it in real time, good for them.
This happened in the Hawks' game Jan. 12 when a Patrick Kane goal was nixed because replay showed Brandon Saad was maybe a foot offside. I'm all for the refs calling offside, but if there's no whistle in the moment, let it go.