Tuesday , June 05, 2012 - 2:10 PM
There is no sport I enjoy more than hockey. I think the Stanley Cup is the toughest championship to win in all of sports. The toughness, skill and will of a hockey player far surpasses that of the other stick-and-ball sports in my estimation.
But it's time for hockey to make a significant change to its great sport. The nets have to get bigger.
There needs to be a little more scoring.
How hard is it to score goals? Only four players buried the biscuit in the basket 40 or more times this season (Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos did have a stunning 60). Only eight averaged a point per game (goal and/or assist) during the year.
Martin Brodeur of the Stanley Cup finalist New Jersey Devils had what was described by many as an inconsistent and merely above-average regular season. Yet he stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced and his goals-against average was 2.41. That's the level of goaltending that is in the league today.
Only seven of the league's 30 teams averaged three goals per game. The best players in the world can't find a way to score a goal per period? Nope. Only five teams allowed three or more goals per game.
Now I'm not saying take the 6-foot by 4-foot nets and add a foot to both sides and up top. We're no trying to make the final score that of lacrosse. But how about if we added 3 inches to each side and the crossbar?
That's the width of a puck.
The Buffalo Sabres seven years ago pushed the NHL to increase the size of the nets. They came up with one that had outwardly curving posts and an upward curving crossbar. It kept the net the same size at its four points, yet expanded the size of the goal by 13 percent. The league stayed with the status quo.
The players today are bigger than ever before, and that includes the goalies. Also, the goalies are far more athletic and better trained than ever. With their size and almost universal butterfly technique, there is little room for the shooters when they get inside 30 feet of the net.
The skill in the sport is higher than ever before, yet the number of goals being scored is going down. That's not good. That's the opposite of what happens in other team sports.
Scoring right now is at a level not seen since the 1950s. The NHL has made the goalies' equipment smaller and changed the rules to try and create more scoring. While the game has much more flow with the changes, it has fewer goals.
The average NHL game has a shade over five goals scored. What if that number became six? One shot per game that clanks off the post or crossbar that would now go in? It doesn't sound like much, but it's a level the NHL has not consistently reached in 20 years.
Make the nets bigger. By the width of a puck. In all three directions.
Hockey has a lot of things going for it.
But one more goal wouldn't hurt.
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