TFK on Rebuilding the NHL
June 27, 2011 Leave a comment
If I was made emperor of the NHL for a week, here are the changes I would immediately implement:
* All rosters reduced by one player (dropped from 23 to 22 men on the roster, 18 to 17 guys dressed each game)
This forces every team to run a five-man defensive rotation, or more likely, throw the goon off their roster. I love fighting in the NHL, but the I think it’s retarded when two guys who can barely play at the NHL level (or worse, a guy who can barely play at the AHL level like Trevor Gillies) square off. I’d rather flip the channel and watch a minute of a UFC fight.
The worst thing about having plugs like Gillies around is their danger to guys who can actually play hockey. The Pens’ Eric Tangradi was lost for the season because Gillies nailed him with a blind-side flying elbow. Another Islanders’ plug, Michael Haley, tried fighting a fucking goaltender. If you think that’s the joke, here’s the punchline: each guy, earning the NHL minimum for the game, pulled down about $6500 for less than five minutes of work. If that’s not the sort of thing that encourages bad behavior, I don’t know what is.
For comparison’s sake, this is the best fight of all-time:
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Two Captains fighting each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn’t matter that Vinny Lecavalier’s punches look feminine compared to George Parros'; the passion and the circumstance is what makes that fight so awesome. That’s how hockey fights were made to be, rather than premeditated bouts between guys who should be boxing.
If you’re throwing a guy off the bench each night, there’s a 95% chance it’s the thug at the end of the bench. Just so you don’t think I’m holding the Penguins to a saintly standard, that means that Eric Godard doesn’t make the team and someone like Matt Cooke is in jeopardy of losing his game sweater if he doesn’t knock off the bullshit. There’s no way this rule doesn’t make for better hockey and less nonsense.
* All players must use wood sticks
In the current NHL, you can’t play in the league if you don’t have all-world skating speed. This has forced players like Bill Guerin, Brett Hull, and Brendan Shanahan out of the league prematurely.
The composite stick has masked the fact that the league is largely comprised of guys who are NHL skaters, but not NHL skill-players. The composite stick has been like steroids for a player’s shot, and has given every jobber on the planet the natural advantage people like Shanahan and Guerin used to possess.
NHL players are professional hockey players, which means they should be outstanding at the game of hockey regardless of equipment. Major League Baseball players continue to use wooden bats despite the fact high schoolers and collegians use aluminum bats. This is possible because people like Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols are the best of the best; they’re talented enough to hit a baseball 500 feet with a wooden bat, something most collegians are not. That’s what separates a great amateur from a professional.
Reverting to an all-wood stick league ferrets out the jobbers who have NHL wheels but not NHL hands. Teams could simply not afford to keep 10 or 12 guys on the roster who lack the ability to put 10 pucks past NHL goaltenders without the juice from a $200 Easton or Bauer synthetic stick.
The beauty of this idea is that the Sidney Crosbys and Alex Ovechkins of the world would continue to thrive, and the aging superstars of the league would not be forced to consider retirement at age 33. The people who would suffer would be the 3rd/4th line energy guys and the collegiate-style guys (systems guys), many of whom lean on the 100-MPH juice a composite stick puts on their shot rather than offensive creativity, puck movement, and skill.
You would see a huge League increase in European players, as young Russians and Scandinavians who are forced to play without fancy composites would fill out rosters. Consider Teemu Selanne, who had over a point-per-game at age 40. There is awesome footage of him on YouTube using a $20 Mike Bossy Jofa/Titan and abusing goaltenders like they owed him rent money.
Speaking off Awesome:
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This would actually cause an increase in scoring, as guys without scoring instincts would go the way of the dinosaur while guys with Ph. Ds in Neurotic Goaltender Psychology would continue to thrive:
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Mario certainly didn’t have a problem scoring with a $20 Koho wood stick. Just to reinforce my point:
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Yes, Mario was better than Gretzky. Not to knock on Gretzky, but c’mon. If Mario was from Ontario instead of Montreal, they would have re-named Canada “New North Mario” or “North A-Mario” something.
* Reduce the Regular Season length
Six games against each division rival (3 home, 3 away), two games against every non-division team in the same Conference (home and away), and a home-and-home with every team from the other Conference (30 games total). That’s a new total of 74 games. If that’s still too long of a season, drop a home-and-away from each Division series to give us a new total of 66 games. This would obviously be modified after I re-aligned the Divisions (see below).
The NHL regular season is too fucking long. I love hockey, but it’s too much. The intensity of the playoffs goes up 100% each round, and I think the NHL would draw better with non-traditional fans if they weren’t inundated with 82 tedious games before the playoffs. The season, as it goes now, runs from September to mid-June. Insanity.
Beyond that, a basic tenet of business is supply versus demand. If you make a regular season game more of an event and more scarce, people will be more apt to make it appointment television and more likely to pay for a ticket.
I’m fine with increasing the playoff field to 20 teams, if the demand was high enough; hockey players manage to find an extra gear when the games become elimination-style, and I don’t think adding more teams would at all dilute the awesome product that is playoff hockey.
* Division Re-Alignment
Detroit and Columbus both want to play in the East. Fine. Nashville should also play in the Southeast division, and swapping them in for Winnipeg is an easy fix.
Here are my re-aligned Divisions and Conferences (and yes, I’m aware I put 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West):
Coastal Division: San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton
Midwest Division: Dallas, Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Nashville
Atlantic Division: Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida
Northeast Division: Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Boston,
I would honor Nashville’s request to move to the East as soon as Florida does the sensible thing and re-locates to Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City, or Hamilton…anywhere besides Sunrise, Florida. The fan apathy is too great. Tampa Bay more than represents the state adequately.
I would take the Top 8 teams in terms of points, regardless of Division. If the Northeast sends 6 teams and the Atlantic sends two, that’s just great as long as the best 8 teams go. Seeding would be based on point totals. The Divisions are in-place just for the convenience of travel, and I would be apt to do 8 games within the Division and delineate the schedule from there.
I would be inclined to take 8 teams from each Conference (despite the imbalance of teams) until an Eastern team volunteered to relocate or switch Conferences. The travel on the Western teams remains a factor (have you ever flown from Dallas to Winnipeg? Not the same as Pittsburgh to Detroit). I think the travel disadvantage would be mitigated by taking 8 teams from the 14-team Western Conference. Maybe Columbus would agree to move back to the West after a few seasons of finishing 9th in the East.
* Standardize Suspensions
The Discipline Committee needs to decide what crime equals what punishment, and stick to it. This “NHL Wheel of Justice” bullshit needs to end immediately.
Head-hit? 8 games. Bam. If you want to give a guy a concussion, you can forfeit 10% of your hefty NHL paycheck. Same thing with a low-bridge (lateral hit to the knee). This is a guy’s career you’re threatening. Be a man and hit him in the chest, or be a man and let the better player go around you. Respect the fucking game and your fellow players.
Something that would go a great length toward serving this end would be….
* Soft-cap shoulder pads and elbow pads for everyone
There were a lot fewer concussion cases in the 1980s because everyone wore the same $30 Sher-Wood or Cooper soft-cap shoulder pads that Brendan Shanahan and I wear. I realize guys now shoot 100 MPH, but if we do what I said earlier and switch to wooden sticks, only Shea Weber, Adrian Aucoin, and a few other guys are shooting dangerously fast.
We would go back to a style of play in which the goal is to separate the man from the puck, not separate the man from his head. If Mike Richards is wearing soft-cap elbow pads (along with his panty-liner and his Midol) during this hit , David Booth doesn’t miss a year of hockey and the fucking Olympics:
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(Of course, under my rules Richards would have received an 8-game automatic for a head-hit and handed the league offices $55,000+. Maybe he wouldn’t have even tried to hit Booth in such a dangerous and disrespectful way.)
This would also eliminate the over-abundance of shot blocking that we currently see in lieu of Evgeni Malkin/Pavel Datsyuk-style takeaways. Faster games, more shots to the net, more goals = more entertaining product.
(Note: While we’re on the subject, I have no idea why Evgeni Malkin doesn’t get the same press as Pavel Datsyuk does as a defender. They play THE EXACT SAME WAY in the defensive zone. People who think Geno is a bad defender need to fuck themselves with a chair leg, because they have no value as hockey analysts or even cogent speakers. Geno is Awesome and will crap on the NHL this year, now that’s he’s healthy.)
I think that’s a good start. I’d love to hear any intelligent feedback or thoughts, but if you’re stupid or Jeremy Roenick (or both), be quiet and stop trying to procreate.