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Over the Line.....Mark it Zero

MGoBlog wrote a very fascinating article questioning the offsides rule in hockey. Brian argues that calling offsides hurts the flow of the game, by causing a lot of unnecessary face-offs, and hurts offense by making it too easy for the defensive team to clear the zone. The comments are just as good, with a lot of discussion about potential rule changes to improve the game.

I'm not necessarily sure I agree with Brian here. Taking away offsides would cut down on a couple whistles per game. But as was noted in the comments, it would also create a lot of icing calls as teams tried to get the puck out of their zone.

I also think it might even take away from the speed of the game a little bit. Without a blueline keeping all ten skaters in one section of the ice, it would spread everyone out more. There would be a lot more long passes instead of quick, sharp passing. Plus, defenseman wouldn't be forced to try and hold the blueline. They could play much more conservatively and the game would lose a lot of breakaways and odd-man rushes.

To be fair, Brian is a bit more conservative in his suggestions, saying that the blueline should either be made wider, or that hockey should try the "Red Berenson Rule" where once a team crosses the opposing team's blueline, the opposing team must clear the red line in order to clear the zone. I'm not sure how the former would change things, though I think that the latter would be very interesting, especially on powerplays.

Another suggestion that got brought up a lot was making every rink Olympic-sized. I do like the wider ice, but an extra couple feet won't change a lot. The CCHA predominantly uses NHL size rinks, while the WCHA is predominantly Olympic-sized. Last year, the average CCHA team scored 6 more goals in league play than the average WCHA did.(Obviously there are other factors that go into those numbers, but I think you can see that there isn't a big difference in scoring between rink sizes).

Back in the early to mid 1930's, scoring dropped pretty significantly in the NHL. There was a lot of talk various rules playing in a big role of that, but Detroit's legendary coach Jack Adams once told the New York Times, "Talk about the rules keeping down the scoring; it's the goalies who keep it down." Adams also called the drop in scoring one of the "outstanding developments in modern hockey." Of course, two years later in the same paper, Adams was bemoaning the fact that teams got an early lead and played a tremendously boring-paced game to sit on the lead(while simultaneously being known as the greatest perpetrator of said tactics, according to the rest of league).

Anyway, I tend to believe Adams. It's the goalies, stupid. If hockey wants to increase scoring, they should make the nets a little bit bigger, and make goalie pads a lot smaller. We don't need soccer nets, just a couple inches on either side to give players a little more net to look at. Goalie pads have gotten way out of control too. Not only would shrinking them increase scoring, it would allow goalies to show off their athleticism by forcing them to make more acrobatic saves. I know I'd much rather say "Wow, he's quick" instead of, "Wow, he takes up a lot of space".

I know a lot of people cringe when it comes to changing rules to try to make the game "more exciting," but I think it's time for hockey to try something. There's a lot of great things about the game that I think just need a little help to be shown off a little more.