The Break Down

After my article "Robocop" was posted two weeks ago, Ken posted a comment. He made reference to Don Cherry and the old boys club of the NHL maybe wanting to bring back the two line pass rule.

I can’t say I saw the Cherry clip, but I imagine he didn’t explain why this rule has a direct impact on the speed of the game and on big hits which can contribute to the injuries like concussions.

Let me break it down and explain why he might feel that way.

Prior to the lock-out, clutching and grabbing was happening all over the ice. It slowed down the game the most in the neutral zone as defending players would lock on to a forechecking player with their stick and slow them down. This was called "water skiing".

Water skiing made it very difficult for a forechecker to get any speed while breaking into the offsensive zone. The elimination of clutching and grabbing helped teams to forecheck, but it wasn’t going to be enough. NHL teams had gotten so adept at playing a trap style neutral zone forecheck that more space was required. Before the elimination of the redline, a forward stretching at the far blue line was not closely guarded. The two defending dman could hold the red line until the puck crossed the blue line.

With the elimination of the redline, those same 2 dman were required to back off and respect any forward stretching behind them. This opened up the neutral zone a lot. There was now the possibility of a gap between the defending teams forwards and dmen. Players could get a lot of speed going in their own zone which is a great way to get past a neutral zone defense. Ryan Kesler does this very well. He picks up the puck behind the net at full speed and flies up the ice. Most players will back off when a guy with speed is coming at them.

Teams now try to force the attacking team to dump the puck in by funneling the puck carrier towards the boards. He runs out of space and must chip it in, but he usually doesn’t lose his speed. This is where the impact of the rule change was felt. The defending dman must now turn to retrieve the puck with not as much speed as the oncoming forechecker. He’s a sitting duck.


It is also affects attacking players. Once they gain the blueline they think it is safer and they won’t be hit. But players back check so hard once they stop moving their feet the attacking player is also a sitting duck. A couple of examples are Richards hit on Booth and Cooke’s hit on Savard. Both players had just gained the blue line and had stopped moving their feet which isn’t abnormal. Back checkers keep coming and then….Bam!!

The elimination of both the redline and water skiing has been great for the game but it has had side effects. All the speed in the game now will only continue to compound these issues.

So don’t go to hard on good old Grapes! He has some good ideas every now and then but maybe Ron should break them down during the segments.

  • rubbertrout:

    I’m actually not convinced that it would be better, but I think that it should be on the table.

    My post argued for “a serious discussion about eliminating hitting”.

    Of course, I realize that hockey culture is very conservative and also very “Don Cherry”, so it’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon.

    It just seems so obvious that I wonder why it’s never brought up.

    Thank you for the intelligent response.

  • Oilerbill

    Thanks Jason, this totally makes sense and you made it crystal clear and easy to understand as I have heard many theories but your is the most concise and easiest to grasp including specific examples. Nice work!

  • Oilerbill

    Another good article Jason. It’s nice to have someone who has played at the highest level on here offering a well thought opinion of the game today. It’s a nice contrast to some of the bs that is spewed on some of these pages by people that may have an over inflated ego.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      Mr. Strudwick please don’t get fooled by this “jock sniffer”. He comes on here daily ranting like he is smarter than everyone. Had someone else written this he would have been all over them.

      He hates Brownlee because Brownlee put him in his place and is now trying to suck up. Seriously childish and embarrassing.

      Interesting article, but you never mentioned if you think it would be good for the game. Would you make this rule change if you were on the competition committee?

      • Jason Strudwick

        I love the speed of the game that some rule changes have created. As a D-man I am biased toward protecting them. I would like to see a rule change that allows for them to slow down forecheckers for each other. Sometimes all that is needed to avoid big collisions is a bump to buy the puck retriever an extra second to get set.

  • Ha ha. I expected a reaction like that.

    I know a 10-year old who still throws up and gets headaches every day from a brain injury (concussion) he got in rugby. It’s 7 months since he got hurt.

    I guess he should have been playing ringette.

    I guess that basketball, baseball and soccer are all for girls because there’s no hitting.

    I personally would rather keep the game fast, and not see lives get destroyed by brain injuries, than go back to slow, clutch and grab hockey.

    • Baseball’s boring.

      I do agree that this is a problem and obviously sympathize with you, but as to making this a non-contact sport – I’m not sure I agree with you.

      Hitting is almost always a part of this game when it’s played at the highest level. Same as it is integral to the sports of football, rugby, elephant polo and lacrosse.
      Also, let’s note Sami Pulkonnen from Finland did nothing but hit the Swedes in his game, so it’s important to the newer generation of international talent too.

      Shanny’s heading in the right direction. Suspend everyone that hits to hurt. Sure, people are going to hate it. People hate cough medicine.

      As said before, drop the hits stat, discourage and educate kids against becoming “goons”, and crackdown and eventually outlaw hits to the head.

      Injuries happen. Soccer has injury time. Peyton Manning single-handedly killed the Colts by being out a whole season.

      When something as integral as hitting comes into force, you simply can’t make it illegal. But you can change the rules to make it better.

    • Lego

      So by your logic Conan, hitting should be eliminated from rugby as well right. Professional hockey is a contact sport just like rugby and football and you dont here fans of those sport crying out for hitting to be taken out. Imagine NFL players playing flag football like when they were kids, get used to hitting or switch sports. The article is about what a possible rule change could do to reduce injuries not a chance for you to voice your useless opinion.

    • I note that you refer to different sports in support of your contention that playing hockey with no hitting would be better.

      There is contact in each of them but it is incidental to the type of interaction between players inherent to the sport.

      Ever see a catcher try and block the plate? How about a point guard drive the lane only to be met with a hard foul? How about a soccer goalie rushing out to make a play on the ball who takes out the opponents legs?

      Nobody likes it when people get injured but let’s get serious here.

      When people are that big, strong and fast there is going to be contact and lots of it. I’d say a better solution would be to drop the “hits” stat. Guys won’t be running people to up their stats.

  • The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

    How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

    Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

    Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

    Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

    If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

    As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch – it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.