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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rules Rules Rules

Creativity from Icing?

What’s the point of keeping the same players on the ice penalizing the team that ices the puck? Players have always been told to HOG (high off glass) the puck. If they are scrambling, in trouble in their own zone, they always have the option of getting it high off the glass down the ice. Now they are penalizing the player that did not make the best play, but relieved the pressure in their own zone by icing the puck. The face-off comes back into the defensive zone as a punishment for that action. Why the doubling of punishment?

How does keeping the same players on the ice enhance creativity? Gary Bettman even alluded to expand that rule to goalies freezing the puck. Enhance creativity by keeping tired players on the ice doesn't seem to jive with a logical progression of the game.

Double Punishment for Goalies

Keeping with the theme of rules, the no-touch zones of goalies is another ‘punishment’ but this time to the development of young goalies. Once again, where does this rule enhance offensive creativity? If anything, it is a detriment to not only the goalies, but to the defense as well. They are now facing more pressure, and being put in a position where they have to take the a hit for the sake of getting the puck out of the zone, or keeping it away from the opposition. Goalies alleviated this constant barrage of hits by playing the puck.

Goalies that have developed the skill to handle pucks is a major asset to any team. Brodeur and Belfour were great at handling pucks and turning the play around in transition. It was the fact that they were able to do so that enhanced their own team’s creativity, stopping the momentum of the forechecking forwards and sending your own player away up ice in transition.

What kind of message are we sending the kids beginning to play and develop? Don’t bother trying to handle the puck? And what happens if this rule is dropped, similar to the re-implementation of tag-up offside? There would be a generational gap of goalies that have not developed that skill that must pick it up fast.

The newly obstruction-less NHL can negate the argument of a goalie wandering for pucks into the corners, where the no-touch zones are currently placed. In previous seasons, with the implementation of the trap, opposing forwards were hindered on the way to the net. There is no more of that in today’s NHL. If a goalie wandered to the corner while leaving his net unguarded and a forechecker barreling in unobstructed, then it’s the 'tenders fault for letting in a bad goal.

One goalie that could definitely have benefited from this rule, would have been Arturs Irbe. He should never have left his crease.


Lawsuits Limited

After watching the Sabres give up the game-winning goal to the Hurricanes in Game Seven on a delay-of-game penalty on Buffalo’s Brian Campbell, from flipping the puck into the stands in his own zone, I got to thinking. Was that rule instituted to truly deter a delay-of-game?

Or was it to minimize the risk of lawsuits from errant pucks going into the crowd?

Now Boarding…

There is a necessity of creating a clear-cut definition for Boarding, or hits from behind. The idea of hitting a player if they can see the numbers is good but players have got the message and some turn their backs prior to getting hit, or to avoid getting hit altogether.

Players will always find ways around established rules, (for evidence see games played with the neutral-zone trap.) An opposing player bumps goalies coming high out of the safety zone of the blue iced crease and they get the goaltender interference penalty.

The NHL rules committee will have to figure out a solution to this problem. It has always been a problem, but no one should have to risk getting crippled and ruin a life in order to fish a three-inch black disk from an ice surface.

Gary Roberts, Erik Cole and even Wayne Gretzky, (courtesy of a cheap Gary Suter hit from behind in the Canada Cup) have been hit from behind and suffered damage, among many others.

© Gus Katsaros 2006


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