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.