November 19, 2008
When discussing the goaltending "trapezoid," I think it's important to disclose yet again that I'm a New Jersey Devils fan; because this post-lockout rules change was created, in part, to undermine one of the exemplary skills of their franchise player, Martin Brodeur.
Like other goalies, his ability to handle the puck as a de facto third defenseman allowed defensive systems to flourish. (The ability of a puck-handling goalie to contribute to a transition offense never really factored into the equation.)
How effective has the rule been in creating more offense and speeding up the game? Well, attacking players clearly have received more opportunities to chase down a puck in the offensive end since the goalie's movement is restricted. That's undeniable. As far as speeding up the game, Between the Pipes had a rather awesome take last season:
With the desperation of a person trying to catch an open face peanut butter sandwich before it hits the carpeting, goalies have to race out and attempt to get the puck prior to crossing the goal line in the corners. If he grabs it, he still has to wait in some cases for his teammate to come by and pick up the puck, or he plays tic tac toe. However, if the goalie is unsuccessful he must gaze longingly at the puck on the other side of the line with the look that a dog has after seeing said peanut butter sandwich hit the shag. He can't touch it, even though he could, because he'll get slapped. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think this speeds up the game.
The rule's effect on offense might be beside the point, however. NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly said the trapezoid might go the way of Crystal Pepsi because the rules change actually places the players' safety in jeopardy.
Like everything else rules-related in hockey these days, it all comes back to hits to the head. According to Darren Dreger of TSN, the NHLPA's competition committee may discuss measures against head-shots prior to the NHL All-Star Game. Included in those suggestions could be the removal of the trapezoid. From TSN:
Removing the trapezoid, the area behind the goal line where NHL goaltenders are allowed to play the puck, is another idea that will get discussed by the competition committee.
Some believe, the combination of forwards barreling in on the forecheck, protected from obstruction, and goaltenders not being allowed to freely move the puck have contributed to injury.
Paul Kelly wonders if Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn would have been in the same vulnerable position if Vesa Toskala had been allowed to get to the puck before Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos raced in to complete his check, resulting in a series of injuries to Van Ryn and a three game suspension for Kostopoulos.
Take a gander at the incident again:
In this case, I'm not sure if there was enough time for Toskala to get to the puck without leaving the Leafs' goal completely vulnerable. Maybe if Van Ryn takes on Kostopoulos and the puck whips around to Toskala closer to the crease. Who knows?
Not the best example, but still a valid point: Allowing the goalie to play the puck without restriction would certainly cut down on the suicide runs to the end boards we've seen in the last few seasons.
For obvious and partisan reasons, I wouldn't shed a tear if the trapezoid disappeared yesterday. But I've always felt that restricting the movement of a player defies some of the basic tenets of the game: Teamwork, flow of the action and the notion that we're watching the best athletes in the world on the ice.
Curbing one of a goalie's greatest attributes (at least for those who can play the puck to the correct sweater) never seemed all that laudable to begin with.