Going 4-on-4, calling penalties and shrinking goalie gear (Wednesday Countdown)

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings.)

10. Move to 4-on-4

A fun idea that will literally never happen.

The NHLPA would never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever allow this. It effectively costs the league's lower-level players jobs and money, because even if roster sizes are the same, you're rolling six two-man forward groups instead of four three-man lines. How much do you think a sixth-line forward plays per night? How much do you think that guy earns? How much job security do you think he has?

The answer to all three: Not much.

9. Making the nets bigger

This is the stupidest idea. Next?

8. Change the size of the ice

Making the ice surface bigger will reduce the number of very expensive seats on the glass, which is a non-starter for owners. Making it smaller will result in a player getting killed because the game will become far more physical. There's not enough room out there for 5-on-5 as it is.

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7. Make up new penalties

I remember when they started saying, “Hey, if you put the puck over the glass from your defensive zone, that's a two-minute minor!” and everyone flipped out and they were so mad about how dumb the rule was. I bet it led to more scoring, “BUT AT WHAT COST???” and so on.

The puck-over-the-glass rule isn't the worst thing that ever happened to the league or anything, but at this point we're just about at the peak number of things that can conceivably be called in good conscience. Centers aren't even allowed to play the puck back to a teammate with their hands in scrum faceoffs any more.

So what would be next? Two minutes for playing the puck with a high stick? Two minutes for having a toe in the crease? Two minutes for using a coach's challenge as a de facto timeout.

Ooo, actually that one's good.

6. Rein in rules on goaltender interference

No one is saying it should be open season on goalies or anything, but one of the big epidemics in hockey these days is goalies diving to draw penalties and get goals against negated. You soften up the rules on what actually constitutes goaltender interference, and suddenly more goals are being scored league-wide, particularly in games involving Carey Price and Mike Smith.

Of course, a slippery slope argument can be made here, and those who advance it would complain that goalies are already too exposed, and this would basically make them Daffy Duck in the “Rabbit Fire” cartoon, just getting run over at point blank range. There's some merit to that, and no one wants to see goalies get hurt, so it's unlikely to happen.

And that folds into...

5. Don't let goalies out of the crease

This seems like a good way to get goalies run over multiple times a game. Are a few more goals per game going to generate enough revenue to cover the league's newly expanded “ambulance ride” budget item?

4. Call the penalties on the books now

Now this is the first one that has any actual validity, and it still isn't ever going to happen.

People complain about how many penalties guys “get away with” every game in the modern NHL, but as Sean McIndoe pointed out the other day, these must be people who don't in any way remember the NHL prior to the 2004-05 lockout. Go back and watch highlights from the 2004 Cup Final, and you'll see people who could only be water skiing behind guys like Brad Richards and Jarome Iginla if they were wearing a bathing suit.

The game is so much more free-flowing now, without calling an extra four or five penalties a night, and I suspect it's the result of the league being such hard-asses about those things a decade ago. It might have scared a lot of veterans straight on how they played the game (not that there are all that many still around from 2003-04, statistically). But more important, as these things so often do, the “emphasis” on rules like hooking and interference trickled down to the lower development leagues, meaning that the kids who have come into the league since then have been playing with these emphases and not the Dead Puck Era style.

Also, there's the whole matter of the league not wanting to decide games with special teams that needs to be talked about. Remember how weird the league was in 2005-06? The Hurricanes and Oilers went to the Cup Final, for crying out loud. The reason it was so weird is that they refs called too many damn penalties.

In addition, let's also remember that more penalties mean more stoppages. A decade ago, every game felt like it took nine hours to complete. The league almost certainly has no appetite to go back to that, given how much has been done to reduce the length of broadcasts and so on. If they really want to keep pushing things to “games are done in two hours,” calling more penalties would be extremely counterproductive.

3. Change the configuration of the ice

There's a lot of merit to this, from a statistical standpoint.

While reducing the size of the offensive zone, or even returning the blue line to its original width, would perhaps make offside whistles a little more common, it has to be said that the defensemen in this league probably have a little too much space up there, and teams are willing to give them that.

You almost never see anyone pressure the points in earnest any more, unless they're chasing the game, and it's because the team in their own zone would rather concede low-percentage shots from the point.

From 2008-09, shooting percentages on shots by forwards in all situations came in at 10.85 percent, and there were 5.82 goals scored per game total. This season, we're looking at just 5.34 goals per game, but forwards are still shooting 10.52, which isn't a significantly different number. Meanwhile, in those same seasons, defensemen shot 5.39 percent, and 5.05 percent, respectively. Again, not a major difference, but it begins to explain the problem.

Here, though, is the real issue: Fewer shots are getting through to the goalies from both forwards and defensemen. However, forwards are necessarily going to have a much higher percentage of their shots ending up on net than defensemen, for any number of reasons, and they're going to take more of them in the first place. So getting the puck down to forwards probably helps this issue a lot.

Will it be enough? Tough to say, but anything that puts the puck closer to the goal for a larger portion of the game is probably going to help at least a little.

2. The “two-minute major”

This is an idea that was originally done away with because of how often the Montreal Canadiens were scoring on the power play. Used to be that if you went in the box, you went for the full two minutes regardless of how many goals the other team scored. But then the Habs started scoring so many that the league had to do something.

The concern of one team tipping the scales here is, given the dilution of talent in the league these days, far less of a threat, and I think this idea is a good one. Commit any penalty from puck over the glass to goaltender interference to cross-checking

However, if you have concerns that this still favors higher-skilled teams like the Stars, then you're right. But if that leads to more teams bringing up and signing actual skilled players, even power play specialists, to help them increase scoring and compete, then by all means, let's do it.

1. Smaller goalie gear

The only people that won't like this are the goalies. And perhaps also the teams that have signed their elite ones long-term at big AAVs. They won't like it either, I bet.

Oh well though. We're acting like this is a crisis, and in times of crisis drastic measures have to be taken.

(Not ranked this week: Going full-on NBA Jam.

Any goals scored from above the circles, including deflections closer to the net, count as two goals.

You could call them “potatoes.” Think of all the good hockey terminology that springs from calling a shot that's worth two goals a “potato.” That's nice, I think.

You're welcome, NHL!)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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