5 Things the NHL Needs to Change in 2015

1. Goaltender Interference

Here’s the official ruling on what can be reviewed, via NHL.com, under Rule 38.4:

“(viii) The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in
determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they
are “good hockey goals”). For example (but not limited to), pucks that
enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the
net from underneath the net frame, pucks that hit the spectator
netting prior to being directed into the goal, pucks that enter the net
undetected by the Referee, etc. This would also include situations
whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the
play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently
determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed)
the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous
play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of
the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a
continuous play).”

The NHL made progress this year with adding to this rule. They determined that the situations where there was intent to blow the whistle, or situations where the puck may have gone out of play, are now reviewable. However, this still excludes the instance where there is possible goalie interference.

This has been a point of contention in the NHL for a long time. A player on the attacking team makes contact with the opposing goalie as a result of being pushed in by the defender. The result of the play is no goal, because all the referee saw was contact between the attacking player and goalie. Sometimes it even yields an unwarranted penalty.

http://youtu.be/O_GbbMGq7-s?t=1h34m34s

In the video above, Hartnell was clearly forced into the goalie by the defender’s momentum, however, the referee only saw Hartnell make contact with Brodeur, and deemed that he forced Brodeur into the net. The Flyers lost the game. It was an non-reviewable play by the NHL’s rules.

Simply put, this needs to change. Calls related to goaltender interference are so controversial as it is, and not permitting review on them has caused some very bad calls. In the Flyers case, this was a huge non-call. The Flyers were fighting for every point in the standings, and they missed out on at least one extra point by having this goal disallowed. That can’t happen.

The NHL needs to make goaltender interference a reviewable play on goals.

2. The Kicking Motion.

The official ruling, as per rule 49.2:

“49.2 Goals – Kicking the puck shall be permitted in all zones. A goal cannot
be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to
propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. A goal cannot be
scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the
net off any player, goalkeeper or official.
(i) A kicked puck that deflects off the body of any player of either team
(including the goalkeeper) shall be ruled no goal.
(ii) A kicked puck that deflects off the stick of any player (excluding the
goalkeeper’s stick) shall be ruled a good goal.
A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who
does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that
is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a
legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident. The
following should clarify deflections following a kicked puck that enters
the goal:
(iii) A goal will be allowed when an attacking player kicks the puck and
the puck deflects off his own stick and then into the net.
(iv) A goal will be allowed when a puck enters the goal after deflecting off
an attacking player’s skate or deflects off his skate while he is in the
process of stopping.”

As long as I have been around hockey, I have never come to an understanding of why you can’t kick the puck into net. You can use your feet to pass, win a faceoff, and play the puck along the boards, but not put it in the net? Doesn’t seem to add up.

Why shouldn’t that goal be allowed to count? Briere kicked that puck from about 10 feet out in the slot. Brodeur just missed it, that should be on him.

Of course, there should be limitations if the NHL ever did change the rule. You don’t want to see players doing things like punting the puck into the net, but if the puck is on the ice around the net and the attacker can only use his foot to put in the net, by all means that should be a good goal. It still takes a pretty good degree of skill.

It’s a new idea and a pretty radical change, but it’d be worth a shot and would definitely increase scoring and force goalies to control their rebounds. It would also take a lot of gray area out of the game with regards to the “distinct kicking motion”.

3. Overtime.

Right now, the NHL’s regular season overtime consists of a 4 on 4, 5 minute, sudden death period. The first team to score wins the game. If no one is able to score after the 5 minutes is up, then the game gets decided in a shootout. It’s time to change that.

A lot of people knock on the shootout for being purely a skills competition and not very indicative of the game that was actually played. In essence, it is a momentum killer, that being said, don’t forget there was a time in the NHL when a game could end in a 0-0 tie. The shooutout is progress.

I do think this will change very soon. The AHL has adopted a totally new overtime format for this season, and it has led to a drastic decrease in the amount of games that have gone to a shooutout. It’s very plausible that this model could be used in the NHL, and even better, 3 on 3 hockey creates some serious entertainment and forces coaches to strategize even more. It might not be the radical fix that anyone is looking for, but it could certainly be a welcome sight for those shootout critics.

Nearly 35% of the overtime games in the AHL have been decided in the 3 on 3 portion of overtime. If 3 on 3 is that successful in the AHL, can you imagine the pace it would bring to an NHL game?

It’s a great idea that the NHL should adopt for the beginning of next season.

4. Shootouts.

And no, I’m not talking about getting rid of them.

Changing the shootout could be beneficial to the NHL.

Right now, the NHL has a three round shootout and no player can re-shoot until every skater has shot at least once. Why not change this? The IIHF has a three round shootout, but after the first three shooters, you can reuse a shooter as many times as you would like.

Tell em’, Herb.

The IIHF’s format created a showdown for the ages between TJ Oshie and Sergei Bobrovsky in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Oshie’s heroics launched US fans into an absolute frenzy early on a Saturday morning.

If the NHL is going to keep shootouts (which they should), then why not adopt the IIHF’s format? Who wouldn’t want to see, say, Patrick Kane bearing down on Jonathan Quick, 5 times in a shootout that goes extra time. It makes a skills competition personal, it creates battles. What if the 2o rounder between the Caps and Panthers had repeat shooters? It’d be pretty awesome to see Alex Ovechkin bearing down on Roberto Luongo multiple times.

Everyone saw what it did in the 2014 Olympics. For any US fan, that win felt like a hard fought battle. Shooter versus goalie, 1 on 1. The win still would have been awesome if Oshie didn’t take all of those shots, but something about him shooting over and over again until he won it, just made the win even better.

Adopting this format would add a new dynamic to something that has become relatively bland over the years. It’s a good idea that would better the NHL’s skills competition.

5. Suspensions.

Last, but surely not least, a department where the NHL is failing miserably, suspensions.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how the NHL’s repeat offender policy is really creating repeat offenders. It needs to change.

This is a league that prides itself on punishing those pesky repeat offenders, the guys who need to be taught a lesson. Well, clearly, that system is

Raffi Torres
(Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)

not working. Do you think if James Neal was punished appropriately the first time, that he would have developed the reputation he did? It’s pretty sad when even a retired NHL official realizes that the discipline system isn’t doing their job.

If it’s a players first suspension and he has no history, but the hit is absolutely brutal, why should that player receive a diluted suspension? If you think about it, that makes no sense. It’s essentially telling the player to go out and do it again, because all you have to worry about is a slap on the wrist.

Take the case study of Raffi Torres and James Neal.

Raffi Torres is a notoriously dirty player, there are no two ways about that. He is most notorious for the blind side hit that knocked out Marian Hossa.

This hit earned Torres the third-longest suspension in NHL history, but what’s even more important is what happened before that. Torres had a history of very questionable hits. Hits that could have severely injured players (but thankfully didn’t). The NHL continually hit him with small suspensions and fines, none of which were changing his ways. Surprise! Torres finally severely injured someone, had Torres been handed a steep suspension earlier in his career, I doubt this ever happens.

Then there is James Neal. The poster child for getting away with murder in the NHL. James Neal has had a long history of very dirty, very dangerous hits in the NHL. Including the two (in one shift) that you will see below, for which he received a whopping one game suspension.

That one game suspension certainly didn’t change his ways, just ask Luke Glendening or Brad Marchand.

It’s a desperate change needed in the NHL. This is a league that wants to expel dirty hits from the game, yet they themselves are the ones failing the set the tone. Suspending a guy one game from a brutal charging call and elbow in the same shift essentially sends the message that you can do it again.

It’s still going on today, it has created a breeding ground for guys like John Scott and Raffi Torres to thrive and hunt down other players. It’s 2015 and the NHL needs to make it a point to crack down on these things.