Breaking Down the NHL’s 2014-2015 Rule Changes

The Trapezoid

“Rule 1.8 – Rink – Goalkeeper’s Restricted Area

The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides of the net.”

This a change that probably won’t have a huge effect on scoring in the NHL, but may instead be aimed at limiting the amount of injuries along the end boards. This rule adds 4 total feet of extra space in which the goalie will be allowed to play the puck, leaving defenseman much less vulnerable on dump ins in which they would previously be faced to come to a hard stop feet from the boards, or risked going in feet first and possibly breaking a leg.

The video above is a prime example of the type of hit that the NHL doesn’t want to see. Imagine if in the video, there was an extra two feet of space for Mike Smith to come out and play the puck. The odds of the collision ever happening drop immensely. This is a minor change that could have major effects, in a very positive way.

Game Misconduct Penalties


“Rule 23 – Game Misconduct Penalties

A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging, elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the general category into the same category as boarding and checking from behind (“Physical Fouls”), whereby a player who incurs two such game misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one game.”

This one is pretty straightforward. It’s aimed at punishing repeat offenders who may incur major penalties, but who did not receive supplemental discipline from the Department of Player Saftey (I’m looking at you, James Neal).

The hit above received no suspension from the Department of Player Safety, but it is something the NHL is trying to get rid of. This rule is now expanded to include things like this, such as charging and interference. It is a way to punish players for borderline hits, and a good move on the NHL’s part to try and take dangerous hits out of the game.

 Penalty Shots/Shootouts

“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 Shot situations or in the Shootout.”

This will no doubt be the most controversial rule change of all. The spin-o-rama move has become a hit among shooters and a nightmare for goalies in the shootout. It was previously a very gray area. Did the shooter keep forward momentum while spinning? Did he come to a complete stop and then turn?

In this goal Steven Stamkos scored from 2010, it appeared as if he stopped, turned, and then shot, yet the goal still counted. There is no doubt that the spin-o-rama allowed for some very nifty shootout goals, but eliminating it from the shootout and penalty shots leaves no gray area, and no controversy between goalies and referees. The spin-o-rama is history.

Video Review

Rule 38 – Video Goal Judge

Video review will be expanded in the following areas:

* Rule 38.4 (viii) has been modified to allow broader discretion to Hockey Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g., to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). The revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of situations where video review clearly establishes that a “goal” or “no goal” call on the ice has been made in error. The new expanded rule will also allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck.

* In reviewing “Kicked in Goals,” Hockey Operations will require more demonstrable video evidence of a “distinct kicking motion” in order to overrule a “goal” call on the ice, or to uphold a “no goal” call on the ice.”

Hold on, this one is a spoonful.

We’ve seen it far too many times as fans. The referee at the side of the net loses sight of the puck in a scrum of players (even though it is still lose). The referee blows the whistle and a split-second later, an offensive player buries it. No goal, and it’s not allowed to be reviewed in Toronto.  The same thing goes for plays where the puck may have crossed the line, but the referee “intended” to blow his whistle so the goal is waved off, and cannot be reviewed because it was considered at the referees discretion. The on-ice officials are now permitted to go to Toronto for video assistance on plays like this, giving a much better view, and not to mention, a second opinion.

While this is a step in the right direction, a crucial piece that is still missing is reviewing goaltender interference and incidental contact. Too many times a goal will be waved off because the offensive player has been pushed into the goalie by a defensive player. It is ruled either incidental contact or goaltender interference on the team that had the goal waved off. This type of play is still not reviewable, and is only based on the decision of the referee on the ice.

One last thing to point out with this rule change is the fact that the NHL is going to be more relaxed with its ‘kicking motion’ ruling. So unless there is full, conclusive evidence that a goal was kicked in, expect it to count.


“Rule 57 – Tripping

The rule relating to “Tripping” will be revised to specifically provide that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player “dives” and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck.

But, in situations where a penalty shot might otherwise be appropriate, if the defending player “dives” and touches the puck first (before the trip), no penalty shot will be awarded. (In such cases, the resulting penalty will be limited to a two-minute minor penalty for tripping.)”

I don’t think a lot of people are going to be fans of this one, especially defensemen.

In years past, if an offensive player was on a breakaway and the defensive player turned on the jets to backcheck and dove, swatted the puck first and then the player fell, it would be considered a good defensive play. Now it will be a tripping penalty.

The play seen above will now be considered a penalty, despite Sami Salo touching the puck before Marchand fell. What it won’t be, is a penalty shot. Regardless of if it is a breakaway or not, if the defending player touches the puck first, and then the player with scoring opportunity trips, it will only be a tripping penalty.

This rule change effectively eliminates almost any way for a defender to stop a breakaway, and it is no doubt aimed at creating more scoring chances. After the 2005 lockout, the league cracked down on stickwork defending on breakaways, basically guaranteeing a penalty if the defenders stick came anywhere near the mid-section of the player on the offensive. Now, 10 years later, the league is penalizing good, hard back-checking with a 2 minute minor for tripping. I understand the NHL wants more scoring, but this is not the way to go about it.


NHL Rule Changes
Diving will cost you. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s)
1 Warning N/A
2 $2,000 N/A
3 $3,000 N/A
4 $4,000 $2,000
5 $5,000 $3,000
6 $5,000 $4,000
7 $5,000 $5,000
8 $5,000 $5,000

The table above from outlines the new fines for players diving. This is pretty self-explanatory and imposes heftier fines for repeat offenders.


“Rule 76 – Face-offs

To curb delay tactics on face-offs after icing infractions, in situations where the defending team is guilty of a face-off violation, following an icing, the defending player who is initially lined up for the face-off will be given a warning, but will be required to remain in the circle to take the face-off. A second face-off violation by the defending team in such situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.”

Teams will always find a way to circumvent and be sneaky about the rules, and that has been an uphill battle for the NHL since they prohibited line changes after icings. First, they had to ban commercial breaks after any icing call. You may not have noticed, but all TV timeouts during NHL broadcasts take place after the 14:00 mark, the 10:00 mark. and the 6:00 mark. Teams were adapting to the rule and realizing that if they iced the puck right after these times, they would get a free 90 second rest.

The league has now decided that instead of having a player mosey his way out of the circle after a violation, he will be warned, and if he does it again, he will subsequently be assessed a bench minor. This provides more of an advantage the the offensive center while also presenting the opportunity for a powerplay.


“Rule 84 – Overtime

* Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Will switching ends lead to more overtime wins? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

* The entire ice surface will undergo a “dry scrape” prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

* The procedure requiring the head coach to submit a list of the first three shooters in the shoot-out has been eliminated.”

Teams switching ends may not appear to be a big deal right off the top, but it should end up being a huge factor. This piece via

“Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime as they do prior to the start of the second period. Switching ends creates the long-change effect and has led to a greater number of goals scored in the second period (36 percent) than in the first (30 percent) or third (34 percent) since 2005-06 because of the increased challenges of changing players on the fly”

The excerpt also noted that last year in the USHL (the first league to adapt the rule), the league saw a 10% bump in games that ended in overtime rather than the shootout. The long change is something that frequently flies under the radar. If the offensive team is putting on intense pressure during the overtime period, the defensive team will be forced to fully clear the zone to get in a full change. It also has the potential to create more breakaways during overtime, because a player just coming off of the bench has the opportunity to be in behind the defense.

Puck Out of Play


“Rule 85 – Puck Out of Bounds

There have been further rule changes made relating to face-off location to avoid penalizing teams for plays intended to create bona fide scoring opportunities. Specifically, the following are “categories of plays” where face-offs will remain in the attacking zone despite the fact that the attacking team was technically responsible for the stoppage in play: Shots at the net by a player on the attacking team where: (i) the shot breaks the glass; (ii) the shot goes off the side of the net and deflects out of play; (iii) the shot goes off the dasher boards or glass and deflects out of play; (iv) the shot is tipped or deflected out of play by a teammate; and (v) the shot becomes wedged in or on the exterior of the goal net.

In addition, the following rule change will be enacted for the 2014 preseason and may be continued for the 2014/15 regular season if approved by the League and the NHLPA.”

This rule change really doesn’t seem to make much sense. It’s widely known the the league wants to boost scoring, but this doesn’t seem to fit in with logic. Why should the defending team be penalized for forcing the attacking team to miss a shot? It doesn’t seem right by any means. So now, if an attacking player completely misses the net, and it ricochets high off the glass and out of play, the faceoff stays in the zone, despite the defender never touching it. This means it could be a 1 on 2, and just because the attacking player missed everything, his team now gets an offensive zone draw. It just doesn’t seem right. Regardless, it will no doubt create more offensive opportunities.