Every year around the same time, the NHL GMs and Board of Governors meet some place warm and discuss how they can improve the game.
During this time they’ve come up with things like the trapezoid behind the net to stop goalies from playing the puck, instant replay on offsides and goalie interference, and constantly try to figure out how to increase scoring.
With the trade deadline not too far away and GMs not having much to do afterwards, I thought I’d throw a few ideas out on my own.
These ideas are based out of hockey history to try to preserve the game that hockey fans love and would make things more exciting and create a better story for fans.
Two minutes means two minutes
Penalties in the NHL were never meant to be ended early. In the beginning stages of the league, if a player got a two minute penalty, they were in the box for two minutes regardless if a goal is scored.
That changed on November 5, 1955 at the hand of Jean Beliveau and the Montreal Canadiens. With the Habs down 2-0 in the second period, Montreal had a two man advantage when “Le Gros Bill” scored three goals in 44 seconds on the same power play.
At the time, it was the fastest hat trick in Canadiens history and the second fastest in NHL history behind the Chicago Blackhawks’ Bill Mosienko, who scored three in 21 seconds.
After that game, teams were fed up with the dominance of the Canadiens and put forth a rule change so that once a team scores on a minor penalty the player can return to the ice. Despite protests from Montreal, the rule passed in time for the 1956-57 season.
If the league is looking to increase scoring, this is a rule that they can consider changing back. At the time, Montreal was in the middle of winning five Stanley Cups in a row and dominated the league in a way that no one had ever seen before.
Now, there is so much parity in the league that there isn’t any one team that can dominate the game the way the Habs did. By doing this, the value of a good penalty kill increases because of how tired will be with the extra time in their zone.
That fatigue alone will lead to more goals and a lot more excitement and mad scrambles on the power play.
The playoff system is broken right now.
Teams have to play within their division in order to move on in the Stanley Cup playoffs, regardless of their standings compared to the rest of the league. This has made it so that the team with the best records, don’t always face the weakest opponents based on their geographical location within the NHL.
For example, in the 2017 NHL Playoffs, the Atlantic Division winner Montreal Canadiens had to play the New York Rangers despite the fact that the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Senators all had less points than the Rangers.
Ottawa and Boston happened to finish second and third and the Atlantic while Toronto got the second Wild Card position. Under this format, Toronto play the President Trophy winning Washington Capitals and the Sens and Bruins faced off with each other.
What I propose is a way to reward the best teams in the league, while creating bulletin board material and buzz amongst fans and media.
It’s a simple idea, the team with the most points chooses who they face.
This makes it so the top teams have no excuses when it comes to playoff time and it rewards them properly for winning during the regular season. There won’t be the temptation to lose a game or two in order to avoid any particular team that may be troubling as well.
On the business side, it creates more programming for both NBC in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada, where they can create an event surrounding the picks right before the playoffs. Teams can have draft day parties with their season ticket holders, as they are the ones who will be most invested in the playoffs.
As well, for us fans, this can also create bad blood and rivalries. These days teams and players are so very afraid of giving their opposition bulletin board material in case it comes back to bite them later. By letting the league leaders pick who they face, that in itself forces them to have bulletin board material because no matter where a team finishes, they will be offended by being picked.
Challenge Cup Tradition
Originally the Stanley Cup was intended to be a challenge trophy. This means that the only way to the Cup was to challenge the current holders for it. It later became a series between the NHL/NHA and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) to see which one of their winners is the better team.
In 1926, the Victoria Cougars were the last team outside of the NHL to win the Stanley Cup. After that the NHL’s competition weakened and eventually the Stanley Cup Trustees proclaimed that as long as the NHL was considered to be the best league in the world, they would be in possession of the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup in and of itself is filled with tradition. It is the only one of the four major sports where a new trophy is not built every year and all of its bumps and bruises are loved by hockey fans all over the world.
What I propose is to move some more of that tradition in the Stanley Cup presentation after it’s won. Currently, Commissioner Gary Bettman has the honour of presenting the captain of the winning team with the trophy.
What I would like to see is the captain of the defending champion pass it over, as a nod to its challenge trophy days.
It would have been cool to see Rod Brind’Amour pass it to Scott Niedermayer, to Nicklas Lidstrom, to Sidney Crosby, to Jonathan Toews, and so on and so forth.
I know the first thought that comes to mind is that if a player doesn’t win the Cup, they don’t want to be near there. However, players love to become part of the tradition of the Cup. It would be the same type of thing as Wayne Gretzky starting the team photo after the Cup celebration. That so-called negative would just become part of the duty of a Stanley Cup Champion.
In the case of a back-to-back winner, then the duty would fall to Bettman as the leader of the NHL to present the Cup to the current champs.