Willis' NHL: five things that should change

Jonathan Willis
August 28 2008 02:00PM

Wanye suggested that I take a stab at this, so I decided I would. I’m largely in agreement with James Mirtle’s suggestions; if I were the league commissioner, I would do all five. As much as it pains me to admit it, I like Wanye’s ideas too and I also find myself in agreement with commenter Michael. Here’s my (not entirely original) five:

1. Crossover Seeding

Remember, for years and years, when the Edmonton Oilers would finish in ninth place, ahead of varying Eastern Conference playoff teams, but with too few points to qualify in the West? Didn’t that bother you? No longer. In My NHL, the ninth-place team from the other conference would be able to bump the eighth place team if that team had fewer points. Last year, this would have meant that Carolina, with 92 points, would have played against Detroit in Round 1 rather than Nashville (91 points). Michael suggested this in the comments yesterday.

2. No More Buyouts/Contract Burial

Anyone else remember how Alexander Mogilny ended his excellent career playing for the Albany River Rats once Lou Lamoriello realized he’d spent too much money on an aging, injured scorer? I have always hated the idea that NHL talents could be submarined like that (or loaned to Russian teams) to escape salary cap implications. A contract is a contract is a contract, and if an NHL GM makes a bloody stupid error (or five) he should be forced to live with the consequences.

3. Enlarge the Nets

James Mirtle suggested this (and he was far from alone), but I’ve long thought it was a good idea. It isn’t about turning the NHL into a circus or artificially driving up goal scoring, it’s about simply compensating for the change in athletes playing goal. Of the thirty NHL starters last year, 27 were 6’ or taller. Twenty-one of those were 6’2 or taller. The butterfly style revolutionized the game, and now there are tons of butterfly goalies that are so big that they cover major chunks of the top part of the net as well. Goalies have radically increased in size over the years, while nets have stayed the same. Increasing the net by a couple of inches will compensate for the change in goalie size and help stop the downward trend in scoring.

And yes, I’ve seen plenty of exciting 2–1 hockey games, but I’ve also seen plenty of boring 2–1 hockey games. I can’t remember ever coming away bored from a 5–4 win.

4. Put Another Team in Toronto

The New York area supports three teams—there’s no reason not to let Jim Balsillie put a team in Hamilton or wherever. Part of the reason the Maple Leafs are so irritating is that they have a monopoly on media coverage at Canada’s media headquarters. Another team would ease the Leafs-centric nature of Canadian media coverage, and at the same time give some welcome relief to fans in Toronto who haven’t been able to get tickets to a game at a reasonable price since, well, ever.

5. Standardize Suspensions

Chirs Simon gets thirty games and Chris Pronger gets eight for the same infraction? Chris Pronger gets one game in the 2007 playoffs for an elbow to the head of Dean McAmmond? It’s blatantly unfair how NHL superstars (Pronger, and even Ovechkin) get away with dirty plays because of who they are. Additionally, a suspension should be based on intent, not severity of injury. And since we’re on the topic, suspensions should be heavier—if you bash another player in the head with a stick, you’re gone for an entire season.

—Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.com.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 1011011
August 28 2008, 03:38PM
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I like these too. I would love to see Torontonians who don't cheer for the Leafs, and watch the Leaf Nation fracture and divide.

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#2 Ender the Dragon
August 28 2008, 03:51PM
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Some of these I couldn't care less about, but the points made in items #1 and #3 make a lot of sense. Unfortunnately, the fragile TV market that the NHL currently exists with south of the border would never allow crossover seeding. They need Western rivalries and Eastern rivalries in every playoff game to get whatever viewership they can squeeze. A Tampa/Phoenix quarter-final isn't going to attract much draw from anyone, fair as it might be.

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#3 Gord
August 28 2008, 03:55PM
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Multi-rant post:

Changing the size of the nets isn't going to improve the excitement of the game, only how many pucks will go in the net. Why not change the size of the equipment back to the way it was in the 80's?? Shots are too hard? Go back to wood sticks, Composite sticks aren't improving my enjoyment of the game and if I hear Pierre McGuire go off on the one pieces again I will jump through my TV and punch him in the head.

Quite suspending players based on the severity of the injury, suspend for the act of intent to injure, regardless of the player was injured or not.

Get rid of gauranteed contracts. I know the PA would never go for this, but it would keep players from signing huge multi year deals and then coasting to a paycheck. Either that or no contracts to exceed a term of 3 years.

Remove the instigator rule. No explanation needed.

No touch icing unless the offensive player has a lead on the defender inside the blueline. This could allow for some exciting plays yet generally occur in an icing call ensuring fewer high speed falls into the end boards.

Penalty for firing the puck over the glass in your defensive end should be removed and treated exactly the same as an icing as that is what they are (usually) attempting to do anyway.

2 points for a win, 0 points for a loss. Now that games will always have a winner, get rid of the extra overtime point. The only reason it was put in was to get teams to play harder in OT, well now that there is always a winner so the extra point is not needed.

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#4 Fiveandagame
August 28 2008, 04:01PM
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Cross over seeding is a wicked awesome idea.

I support buyouts if they are buying out the player at FULL salary over the original length of the contract. Clear out the roster spot if they need to, but you're paying the guy the contract you signed.

Bigger nets or smaller goalies either or. There are plenty of "Little People" who are looking for more career options than the Mexican wrestling circuit, (I know I am going to hell for that last statement but I am going anyway for laughing at this lady's pain. http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/157b2e2dcf )

As for another team in the T-dot? Anything my god anything to cut down the amount of coverage this consistently terrible team gets. How may Masochists can live in Toronto anyway??

There should be a 4 tiered suspension system. Full season. Half Season, 21 Games and 10 games. If you are going to engage in conduct worthy of a suspension then you will be out a minimum of 10 games. This alone would pretty much put an end to the kind of antics CFP engages in. If you're suspended twice in the same season, the fine for the second infraction and length of suspension would be double. Unless the infraction is against a member of the Calgary Flames in which case you get a bonus of 500K. Problem is you will never see this. Owners and the NHLPA would never allow any type of firm and universal suspension laws.

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#5 Jonathan
August 28 2008, 04:01PM
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Why not change the size of the equipment back to the way it was in the 80’s??

That would only help if we could convince all the golaies in the league to go back to a stand-up style.

Get rid of gauranteed contracts. I know the PA would never go for this, but it would keep players from signing huge multi year deals and then coasting to a paycheck. Either that or no contracts to exceed a term of 3 years.

I for one, have no problem with an idiot general manager being forced to deal with the fact that he signed Joe Hockeyplayer to an inflated long-term contract. Stupid GM's should be punished, not players who get injured, or are being paid to play at a level they only hit on a career year (cough*JasonBlake*cough)

No touch icing unless the offensive player has a lead on the defender inside the blueline. This could allow for some exciting plays yet generally occur in an icing call ensuring fewer high speed falls into the end boards.

Absolutely.

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#6 Gord
August 28 2008, 04:17PM
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Smaller pads = bigger net. I would go this route before I enlarge the nets. If it still doesn't work than bigger nets would be the last resort.

"I for one, have no problem with an idiot general manager being forced to deal with the fact that he signed Joe Hockeyplayer to an inflated long-term contract. Stupid GM’s should be punished, not players who get injured, or are being paid to play at a level they only hit on a career year (cough*JasonBlake*cough)" You can not buy out an injured player, only a healthy player who is medically cleared to play. Yes, I agree that Jason Blake contract is hilarious!! I still think some players would give a helluva lot more effort if they knew they would be cut if they coasted around for 99% of the time they are on the ice (Bertuzzi, Isbister, etc) and games would therefor be much more exciting.

One other I forgot to mention is move to International sized ice. This the best league in the world yet we play on a, comparitively, kids size ice surface. Owners would scream because they would lose a row of the most expensive tickets they sell, but to bad, so sad.

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#7 Jonathan
August 28 2008, 04:35PM
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One other I forgot to mention is move to International sized ice. This the best league in the world yet we play on a, comparitively, kids size ice surface. Owners would scream because they would lose a row of the most expensive tickets they sell, but to bad, so sad.

You're not worried about the loss in physical play that a larger ice surface would cause?

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#8 Doogie2K
August 28 2008, 04:36PM
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My five:

1. Repeal the instigator 2. Modify the shootout (no more three-point games; SOW is a GWG) 3. Reconnect teams with their histories. 4. Get rid of the ads. 5. Get rid of the delay-of-game penalties.

And a bonus sixth: Make a few extra inductions to the HHoF.

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#9 harco
August 28 2008, 05:02PM
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Flames demoted to AJHL.

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#10 misfit
August 28 2008, 05:50PM
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Just when I thought there was nothing we didn't agree on, you go and suggest bigger nets.

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#11 mAD~mOD
August 28 2008, 05:56PM
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Fire Bettman and maybe getting the league back on ESPN.

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#12 The Towel Boy
August 28 2008, 11:36PM
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I reeeeaaallly hate the loser point. You lost...OT...Shootout...w/e..you didn't win - you shouldn't get a point just for taking the game to OT. Hate that.

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#13 Gord
August 29 2008, 08:18AM
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"You’re not worried about the loss in physical play that a larger ice surface would cause?" I can't see much of a reduction of physical play with a larger ice surface. Canada always seem to be able to dominate with physical play at the world juniors on the larger ice surface.

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#14 Matt
August 29 2008, 09:04AM
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"One other I forgot to mention is move to International sized ice. This the best league in the world yet we play on a, comparitively, kids size ice surface."

I like the idea of slightly larger, not international size ice. Somewhere in between. As Jonathan mentioned, larger players into todays game. In my mind that means they need a larger ice surface.

"Owners would scream because they would lose a row of the most expensive tickets they sell, but to bad, so sad."

No, the next row would become the first (most expensive) row. You would essentially be losing the back row. Not a big deal in a half empty building.

"You’re not worried about the loss in physical play that a larger ice surface would cause?"

I don't see how you can make the argument about todays larger players needing a larger net but not a larger ice surface??

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#15 Jonathan
August 29 2008, 11:05AM
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I don’t see how you can make the argument about todays larger players needing a larger net but not a larger ice surface??

Maybe I'm wrong here, but it's my understanding that many rinks were smaller than today's standardized ones (Boston, for example).

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#16 jetfan
August 30 2008, 09:34PM
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of all the things I thought you might suggest, bigger nets? ugh... this is probably the worst idea I've heard percolate out there. Gtenders have been playing the butterfly style since Glenn Hall but it was less effective when there were no 4' pads and tent like sweaters.

I think 1 would only damage rivalries.

2 I think will evolve in the next few years as other leagues become more competitive, I see hockey and basketball becoming more like football(soccer).

the last two points are gems here.

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#17 Q
August 31 2008, 07:25AM
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the NHL needs less games.

it's the reason every game counts in the NFL and very few games count in MLB.

If they shorten the season by ten games every game will be more enjoyable.

Also - I like the idea that one of the guys from Covered in Oil had: the player who scores at the lowest rate has to wear a special helmet.

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#18 Q
August 31 2008, 07:30AM
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and it would be cool if each team was forced to play a random fan for a couple minutes each game.

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#19 Tony Romo
September 02 2008, 11:13AM
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"Q Says: and it would be cool if each team was forced to play a random fan for a couple minutes each game."

best suggestion yet.

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