Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Letestu and RNH discuss new faceoff rules

Tonight was the first time I saw the “new” faceoff rules in place. It was the first preseason game, so whenever a new standard is put in place it is easily noticeable.

The league wants to crack down on cheating in the dot, mainly with your feet. Mark Letestu and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins discussed what they think of the rules and what to expect moving forward.

Letestu, who scored twice in the Oilers 5-2 home preseason victory over Calgary is acutely aware of what needs to be focused on the most for centres.

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“Feet are really important. We had the linesmen come in and talk to us today to give us a clear definition on what they are looking for, said Letestu. “They don’t want skates touching the hashmarks at all. They want the defensive team paused, then the other team paused and then they will drop it. They are calling the rules the way they are meant to be called. There will be an adjustment period. We saw a lot of guys getting tossed, but we will adjust.

Another change will be no more leniency on cheaters. One player gets tossed and then it will be a penalty on the next infraction?

“It has always been the rule, but on the second faceoff linesmen are very hard pressed to make that call. If you want to see a coach blow a gasket that will be the one, said Letestu. “I have a tough time believing the playoffs in game seven that type of call will be made. Right now there is an overemphasis on it to try and back guys off, and hopefully it doesn’t go back to the way it was where guys are getting feet involved and over cheating, but there is definitely a message being sent right now,” Letestu said.

Most would agree it would be odd to see that call in the playoffs, but if the league calls it all season, then they should continue to enforce it in the playoffs. If a player knows he can’t cheat and has adjusted all season, there is no reason to suddenly let them have two infractions and not be punished.

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Nugent-Hopkins has never had much success in the faceoff dot. He is only 43% in his career. He thinks the new rule could hurt some players who have dominated the dot.

“For the past year, even throughout the summer, I’ve been working on my foot move in the faceoff circle, so now that’s out the window. There are some guys around the league who own the circle because of that foot move so it’s going to change that big time. You really don’t have time to get your foot in now.

“If they’re going to maintain this standard, as soon as you touch the red markers you are out. I don’t know if we’ll get a warning in the regular season or down the road, but it is a little bit different for sure. You are not standing straight up, you are reaching a bit more than being right over top of it (faceoff dot),” said Nugent-Hopkins

So what will be the best way to win draws under the new rules?

“I think timing will be the key,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “You still have to be strong, if players arrive at the same time, but I think it will be less about strength and more about timing. I think guys will try to get as wide as they can, and one whack and it (puck) is gone. If you are too wide you aren’t going to be able to get in after the fact. If this is the way it is going to be, it will be one or two whacks and it is gone and not as many battles.

Timing will be key, not only on reacting to the puck drop, but getting used to the new format of the defensive player getting set, then pausing, then the offensive player doing the same. It will take some time admitted RNH.

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“I was trying to figure it out today. Even with the linesmen it was new for them, so they are figuring it out as well. It is a learning process right now. From what I understand the defensive guy sets his stick on the ice, then the offensive guy has to touch the white part of the circle, then the linesman drops it. There is a little bit of a delay after the offensive guy sets to when the puck is dropped. It will take a little to get used to it, because drops will change here and there, but it will be fine once you get the hang of it.

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Maybe this is the change you need to improve in the draw, I jokingly asked him

“Yeah, maybe this exactly what I need. Hopefully it doesn’t go the other way (laughs),” replied Nugent-Hopkins.

There is no argument players were pushing the boundaries on the faceoff rules, and it was time to reign them in. We will see more players kicked out of draws early in the season, but I hope the NHL sticks to it. As Letestu said they are calling the rules the way they were meant to be called. The players will adjust and I hope the NHL has the fortitude to enforce this new standard all season.

It is no different than the hooking and slashing on the hands. We saw a lot of penalties last night and I’m sure it will continue into the preseason and regular season. The NHL did this in 2005/2006 and the players started to adjust. The problem was the NHL didn’t stick with it the following year and slowly the league got worse and worse and last year players were slashing each other for fun.

The rule book is there for a reason. Call it by the book and the players will adjust. If they don’t their team will lose and they could lose their spot in the lineup.

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There will be some tough nights, and I’m sure fans, players and coaches will be frustrated some nights, but if they stick with the new rules all season the game will be better in the future.

  • CMG30

    Sadly the NHL never has the internal fortitude to stick by their ‘crackdowns’. They call the rulebook for a month or two but by the end of the season the whistles are nowhere to be found.

  • ponokanocker

    Great idea but when games matter the most, the whistles will be put away. That’s why NHL officiating will forever be a joke. When they give Kesler a penalty in the playoffs for doing this, I might start to believe.

  • OriginalPouzar

    For faceoffs – if the “new rules” put a larger emphasis on timing as opposed to strength, that should benefit Nuge and McDavid although not necessarily Drai.

    Nice to see Nuge at 9 out of 16 last night – grain of salt given the split squad games.

  • madjam

    Due to viewing problems , I ended up watching first period of Calgary home game against the Oilers . It was much more entertaining than our game here , and I give it multi grains and watched most of that game seeing as we were already up 4-0 here . Some pretty impressive showings from all our defence with Auvitu maybe sticking out as best . Simpson surprisingly very close , as well as Lowe . How close did they look ? Even Paigin played decent .Well our weakest defence pair seem to be Larsson and Klefbom for whatever reasons .On offence Caguilla and Yamamoto stuck out as well as Khaira at times and Draisaitl . Kailer did well and even flattened Valimaki in front of Flames net . He showed he can handle tougher NHL players and do well if tonight any indication . In a nutshell , he went from suspect back to prospect with chance to crack lineup . Broissoit was solid . Close , well played game with Oilers be the better club throughout most of game .

    Inspiration on Oilers clubs future and deep depth with an effort and performance like that , considering it was most of Flames set team .

  • madjam

    Yamamoto may not make team this year , but off this game looks more dangerous than Strome or Puljujarvi . He even looked good playing point on PP . His first test he out pointed Gaudreau 2-1 . Like monopoly , he went from Baltic Avenue to Park Place with his performance .

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    Wow, what is this? the NHL actually enforcing the rules (as well as the slashing rule which i LOVE)??? Is the world ending? And i’ve never understood the concept of rules being thrown out the window to make sure the “refs don’t decide the game”…. they decide the game by not enforcing the *@$# *#%$ rules!

  • btrain

    Maybe its a good thing we do not have any dominating faceoff guys as it would probably mean they are cheaters and would have to adjust their technique. Can’t help but think of a guy like Vermette with this rule change, if the NHL actually sticks to it, his percentage may take a heft hit. He doesn’t even go for the puck initially. He just lunges at his opponent tying up their stick, putting himself well over the hashmarks, before he then goes for the puck. http://wpmedia.edmontonjournal.com/2017/05/anaheim-ducks-v-edmonton-oilers-game-three3.jpeg?quality=55&strip=all

  • ponokanocker

    If they are talking rule changes, why don’t they consider eliminating offside’s, like when they eliminated 2 line passes? While it might open the game up, it will definitely result in less disallowed goals and less stoppages. I sure don’t miss the 2 line pass rule being removed.

  • TKB2677

    To be clear, I am a fan of Nuge so I don’t want this to come off as me ripping the guy and running him out of town. But is it just me or does anyone else find it a bit troubling what Nuge said in the 9th paragraph? “For the past year, even throughout the summer, I’ve been working on my foot move in the faceoff circle, “.

    Faceoffs are in the job description of a center. He’s been a center in the NHL for all of his 6 seasons and faceoffs have been an issue for him for all 6 seasons. Regardless if the footwork he finally worked on isn’t allowed anymore. The 5 previous years before he decided to work on his footwork, he was getting worked over at faceoffs by everyone. So if you are getting destroyed at a skill that is in your job description, why the hell did it take you 5 years before you decided to work on it? That blows me away.

    As I said, I like Nuge but maybe that is an example of some of the reasons why the Oilers sucked so much all those years when Hall, Nuge and Eberle were the big 3. If it took 5 years for Nuge, the Oilers #1 center for a long time to decide that “gee, maybe I should work on this part of my game” what other things was he not working on or what other things did Hall or Eberle decide not to work on for years and years? Centers have been whipping you at faceoffs for 5 years using their feet and it never dawned on you to practice that to try and even things up?? WOW.

    • inverno76

      I took that quote as he was trying to add a better foot move to his tool box. I can guarantee he works on his faceoffs. He’s just not very good at them. Nuge’s work ethic has never been questioned.