Thursday, August 04, 2005

The ever-changing NHL

Well, hasn't this been interesting so far. Some of the best known teams in the NHL are losing their most familiar faces as the landscape of the league changes drastically with the new collective bargaining agreement and free agency moves.

Living in (well, close to) a city that has been skating a group of expansion misfits, bruisers and gifted youth onto the ice for a couple years now, I should be happy that this is happening. The Blue Jackets signed defensemen Adam Foote and Bryan Berard while giving up Jaroslav Spacek. A sense of parity will crawl across the league as new even our town should be able to have just as much chance as the Detroit and Colorado to make the playoffs. Gone, however, will be that feeling of us versus the giants. Before, if we tied the Colorado Avalanche it was a massive feat worthy of much rejoicing and church bells. Now we should be able to compete against them with one of their better players.

It's still too early in the free agency deal-fest to make any comments worth blogging. However, some of the rule changes for the new NHL are worth discussing.

Rink dimensions changing
So they are moving some lines, to me it's not a big deal.
The red line won't count for two-line passes.
I see this as a good thing; more flow and less stoppage and maybe some more risk taking on power plays.
Offside "tag-up"
This seems stupid to me, giving the linesmen more things to worry about besides calling the actual offside. It will be interesting to see how it is implemented but it seems so "school-yard" for some reason. There will be fewer offside calls, but this is probably one of the rules that could have been left out and looked at again later.
New "icing" rules
Should result in faster games but I'm not sure I like that only the defensive team is prohibited from making line-changes. What if the offensive team makes a change? Is the goal to eliminate stalls due to icing, or punish the team committing the infraction and keeping (usually) tired players on the ice?
Goalie limits
Being a soccer goalie and defender I have to stick up for the defense. The new rules are intended to promote scoring but I think part of the excitement of the game is both offensive and defensive. The better puck-handling goalies like Martin Brodeur have one of their better offensive weapons taken away.
Instigator rule
Yeah, the "goon" needs to go but I do like the occasional hockey fight. It's all part of the experience.
Zero tolerance on interference, hooking and holding/obstruction
Again, maybe it's the "defender" in me but part of watching hockey is seeing good defense in addition to the offense. Every physical, contact sport has some measure of defense that includes using things like a quick clutch or block to gain an advantage. Many times we have to do everything we can get away with just to maintain a defense and if NHL referees start becoming sticklers on some things that aren't obvious but part of playing good solid defense then I'll enjoy things a little less.
Sigh, why can't we just deal with ties? Then again, I always enjoyed shootouts when at Chill games (minor league, ECHL) so the two things neutralize each other.
Unsportsmanlike conduct i.e. diving.
One thing that plagues my favorite sport, soccer, is diving. If there is one thing that makes my stomach crawl it's watching some player take a dive, go through all the theatrics acting as if acid were just poured on their testicles, then get up moments later as if nothing happened. Enforcing this is a good thing as personally I don't see any "skill" in embellishing contact to earn competitive advantage.

I still feel a lot of ill-will towards the NHL and it will take a while to get me back to watching regularly and being interested enough to spend money on them again. Like it or not, the league is changing and I'll probably have to watch in spite of myself.

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