The conversation surrounding how much scoring has declined in the NHL has echoed more and more each year over the last decade. When the league came out of the lockout in 2005, it was arguably the most enjoyable version of hockey we had seen in this generation. That season, seven players topped the 100-point mark, two of which surpassed 120 while seven others reached 90 points.
Compare those totals with last season, which saw the NHL scoring leader finish with 87 points and only five total players eclipse the 80-point plateau. It’s painfully obvious that the game has become too tight-checking and defensively minded. And, while it’s unfortunate that it took this long for league officials to begin discussing a solution, the solutions they’re pondering only scratch the surface of what’s happening on the ice.
Too many people look at the dip in scoring with tunnel vision and assume that more goals will mean more entertainment. However, that isn’t necessarily the case and only addresses one portion of why the game has become less of a spectacle to the casual fan.
It Isn’t Only About Scoring in the NHL
According to Colin Campbell, in a statement made to media yesterday after a meeting with NHL General Managers, the NHL may have to look at increasing the size of nets.
“Maybe we have to look at bigger nets”
“Maybe we have to go there, but before we do that I think you have to make every attempt you can to do what you can with the large goalie equipment.”
That statement is very telling and reflective of where the NHL currently stands with this situation. As I mentioned before, it’s a tunnel vision approach that only impacts the number of goals scored. So, with increasing the size of the net or decreasing the size of goalie pads, maybe we’ll see more pucks squeak through but what we won’t see is more skill on display and frankly, that’s what everyone wants.
A fast-paced game with a large number of exciting scoring chances can involve miraculous saves and a low 3-2 final score while still being highly entertaining. It’s about the speed, pace and excitement of the game play, not just seeing more shots through a bunch of traffic finding their way in because a goalie’s pads are smaller.
Lets get it right. Lets address the clutching and grabbing that’s hindering the skilled players that the NHL should have on display. Lets start officiating the game as it was in 2005 when the average number of power plays per team in a given game was 5.85, according to hockey-reference.com. Let the players learn to adjust to tighter officiating, rather than the officiating adjusting to a tighter-checking league, which is exactly what happened over the past ten years.