Rule Changes for the Upcoming 2015-2016 NHL Season


At the end of June the NHL announced rule changes for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. 3 on 3 Overtime was the big one, but not the only one you’re likely notice at some point in the coming season. Let’s take a look at the changes and what you’ll need to know.

3 on 3 Overtime
Basically the old 5 minute, 4 on 4 overtime is gone in favor of 3 on 3. We won’t be seeing any 3 on 2 power plays however, as no team will ever be allowed to have less than 3 skaters on the ice at any time. In the case of a penalty, it moves to a 4 on 3 situation. A second penalty would make it 5 on 3, and any further penalties would be shelved until one expired as is the case in regulation.

The only other point of interest in the new format regards the pulling a goalie. If a team pulls it’s goalie at any point during the overtime period, other than for a delayed penalty, they will be at risk of losing the 1 point in the standings they earned when regulation ended. If the opposing team should score into the empty net, you don’t just lose the game, you also lose that single point. Of course if you pull the goalie and score, you gain the second point, and everything is just fine. It seems unlikely we’ll see anyone try that, except perhaps at the end of the season if a team were desperate and needed an overtime win. We might go years without seeing anyone try it.

Face-Off Changes
In the past the rule was that the visiting team had to put their stick on the ice first on all face-offs. That gave a significant advantage to the home team. The team defending now will have to put their stick on the ice first in all instances. What determines who the defending team is? It’s all about the center line. If the face-off is anywhere on your defensive zone side of the ice, you’re the defending team. The only place where the new rule won’t apply, is at center ice. At center ice, the visiting team must put their stick on the ice first.

Considering the number of goals we see right off of face offs, this should lead to more scoring. Ovechkin and Backstrom in particular should benefit from the rule change over the course of the season. We’ll have to wait and see just how costly it might be when the Capitals are the team defending.

Coaches Challenge
This change is really a list of changes and some get a little complicated. But they all center around video review. I warn you, as a Capitals fan, this one, coming now, may cause some grumbling. I know it did for me.

wardThe first piece of the puzzle is that the coaches challenge can only be used on scoring plays. The requesting team must still have their timeout. If you lose the challenge, you lose your timeout. Effectively you’re limited to one challenge loss a game but as many winning challenges as you can manage without a loss. The challenge also (as you would expect) must be initiated before play resumes. So what can the coach challenge? There are really only three things, but two of them would have been really nice to have last spring!

#1 – First, a goal or no goal call where the coach feels the puck either entered the net completely, or didn’t, and challenges the call on the ice. The only change here is that now the coach can initiate the review.

#2 – The second instance is in the case of an offsides non call. A coach can now challenge a goal if he believes the scoring team was offsides on the play. If the video review finds the play was in fact offsides, the goal comes off the board and play resumes with a face-off outside of the blue line. Additionally the clock is reset to the time when the offsides occurred. One limitation of this challenge is that as soon as the puck leaves the zone and re enters legally, there is no longer a winnable challenge. They’ll only look at the most recent zone entry.

#3 – The third instance involves goalie interference calls and non calls. In this case the official can look to see if there should have been a call made that wasn’t, if the player was pushed, tripped or otherwise fouled into the goalie by the defender, and lastly, if there was no contact or contact deemed insignificant on a call that was made. They can’t call a penalty that wasn’t called at the time, but they can award or take a goal away. Obviously if a disallowed goal was overturned on review and a goalie interference penalty was also called on the play, the penalty would go away as well.

Additionally, in the final minute of the 3rd period and all of overtime, Hockey Operations  (Toronto) can initiate a review even without a coaches challenge being available. The review in this case has the same review criteria as a coaches challenge would. If a coach challenges and Hockey Operations was going to call for a review anyway, the coaches challenge is basically nullified and the timeout is safe. Earlier in the game, the normal video review criteria of a goal is limited to the same as it’s been in the past without a coaches challenge.

Now one thing we should be aware of is that by rule, the first thing that will be looked at on every review is, did the puck enter the net? Only after making that determination will they look at any other part of the challenge. That leaves scenarios where you could lose a challenge without the part of the play you were challenging ever being reviewed. It’s also worth noting that per the rule, the on ice official has the final call. Plays must be conclusive to be overturned, and the review will be run from Toronto, but the final call is made on the ice.

3 on 3 should be exciting to watch if you’re a fan of high-octane hockey. It will definitely reduce the number of games getting to the shootout. The face-off changes certainly should add to scoring and diminish the home ice advantage a bit. The coaches challenge should address the occasional horrible calls we’ve seen on some goals that we’ve just had to live with in the past. In all the combined changes should make for an interesting season.

By Ernie Mudd

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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2 Responses to Rule Changes for the Upcoming 2015-2016 NHL Season

  1. jonmsorensen says:

    Well done, Ernie. Concise, useful. Looking forward to seeing how the coaches challenge unfolds.

  2. Pingback: Washington Capitals Daily Report (10-07-15) | NoVa Caps

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