NHL considering bigger nets if it can’t shrink goalie gear

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NHL considering bigger nets if it can’t shrink goalie gear
NHL considering bigger nets if it can’t shrink goalie gear

TORONTO – David Poile sees it as a goalie-sized panic button. 

“The subject that no one wants to go to right now. The last resort,” said the Nashville Predators general manager.

“The bigger nets.”

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Through 215 games, the NHL is averaging 5.32 goals per game played. Last season ended with a 5.46 goals per game played average. In 2009-10, it was at 5.53 goals per game. 

There’s again concern that the NHL is suck in an offensive mire. The goalies are too big for the nets, they say, whether in body mass or in the size of their protective gear. So there have been calls, including from Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, to increase the size of the nets.

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“It’s never ending, the topic of goalie equipment. Now you have people talking about the possibility of bigger nets,” said New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero. “This has been going on forever.”

The NHL’s general managers met in Toronto on Tuesday to discuss this and other issues, without much consensus. One thing was clear from the discussion on goals: That decreasing the size of equipment for netminders would be the first step, before any adjustment to the size of the goal cages is attempted.

Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations, said that the general managers, owners and the NHLPA have all signed off on an adjustment to goalie equipment for next season – although the nature of those adjustments has yet to be determined. He said goalies have agreed with that effort; and if they don’t, the NHLPA has far more players trying to score than trying to stop the puck, said Campbell.

“But if that doesn’t work, maybe we have to look at bigger nets,” he said.

Campbell said he has several “larger goal” prototypes in his barn at home, which is the most Canadian thing that’s ever Canadian’d. He said some have been tested out over the last decade.

“Maybe we do have to go there. But before you do, you have to make every attempt to adjust the goalie equipment,” said Campbell.

And here’s the thing: If you shirk the size of goalie equipment in the NHL, other levels of hockey aren’t all that affected. If you change the size of the goal cage, you basically have to make sure that every other level of competitive hockey in North America is down with that idea, too. There’s no sense in having a player demoted to the AHL firing on a differently-sized net.

There’s even a construction consideration, too. Creating a wider net means putting new holes in arena cement. Campbell said you’d need to x-ray the floor of arenas to make sure it doesn’t puncture a pipe or something.

But the biggest consideration for the NHL in making the nets bigger?

What if it doesn’t increase goal scoring?

“It’s easy to do. You can’t tell the nets are bigger. But it’s not that easy to do because you gotta make the decision that this is going to work, and satisfy your goal scoring problems."

Coach’s Challenge

Despite some recent controversies, the general managers said that they’re happy with the coach’s challenge. Campbell said it’s been a big adjustment for the League and its officials. 

“It’s no different than what happened with kicking the puck over the years. We knew there would have to be adjustments. Not just with human behavior, but with the technical adjustment. This is the first time we’ve had to send video down from the room to the little TV screen,” he said.

Campbell said that the main issue with the challenge is that there still isn’t consensus on what constitutes interference with a goaltender to the point of taking a goal off the board.

So does that mean the coach’s challenge will end up on the hands of the NHL war room eventually, as has been speculated?

“They’ve talked about it. We would review that in March. If it would make the game better, we’ll do what we have to do,” he said.

Shero said the jury’s still out on if these reviews are better handled by the referees or the war room. “We need a bigger sample size to see how it’s working.”

Executive Compensation

The executive compensation rule has been hotly contested, as teams that fire coaches and general managers can ask to be compensated if those individuals are still under contract and hired by another team.

According to the general managers on Tuesday, expect that rule to be altered when the general managers meet again in March.

“I just think what was intended when it was first brought up and discussed … this isn’t what we all wanted. So, it’s something for further review by the commissioner and the Board of Governors,” said Shero, whose former team in Pittsburgh didn't ask for compensation from the Devils when he signed there but did ask for some from the Buffalo Sabres when Dan Bylsma was hired.

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