There has been a lot of talk recently about the amount of scoring in the NHL. Some have argued that the scoring has dipped in the NHL in recent seasons. There is a valid argument here, as last year’s top point producer Jamie Benn had 87 points.
The NHL is in a difficult position in trying to make the game more high scoring. There are two easy options to try to increase the scoring around the NHL. The first option is to get bigger nets. The second option is to make the goalie equipment smaller.
If the NHL were to get bigger nets, how much bigger would the nets grow in size? That question would be the first road block in order to overcome this obstacle. If the NHL wants to make games more like football scores, does that tarnish the history of the game? If goals become “automatic” instead of earned and fought for, does that hurt the competitive nature of the game?
The average height of today’s NHL starting goaltender is 6’2-6’5” tall. Gone are the days of short goaltenders like Darren Pang, Arturs Irbe, and John Vanbiesbrouck who are all less than 6’ tall. With the size of the average goaltender now, there is less room to shoot at the nets. Since goaltenders are generally bigger now, the equipment has also gotten bigger.
Why does the NHL want to increase the scoring? They want to make the games more entertaining for the fans. The NHL is always trying to improve the game every year. A prime example of this is the NHL adopting the 3-on-3 overtime format.
The easiest solution for more goal scoring around the league is to make the goaltending equipment smaller. But there is a trade-off here. If the NHL makes the equipment smaller, that leaves more areas of the goaltender unprotected. The game is so fast and so violent now, that would probably slightly increase the chance of injury. The goaltenders get involved in collisions every game. Is the NHL willing to sacrifice a goaltender’s personal health in favor of potentially more goals being scored?
There are a ton of what-ifs to consider in terms of changing the game for the fans. The NHL has to keep the competitive balance consistent around the NHL, but at the same time, they have protect the players.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
I think the NHL has a great competitive balance right now. From top to bottom around the league, there are no “easy” games around the NHL. Anyone can win or lose a game on any given night.
I am a bit old school when it comes to hockey, so I love watching good defense and goaltending in games. I do not need to watch a 7-6 game every night to be entertained. I can watch a 2-1, 1-0, 3-2 game and get plenty of enjoyment.
I love watching goaltenders like Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Roberto Luongo, and Henrik Lundqvist make highlight-reel saves on any given night. The competitive nature of the game is good when a goaltender can steal the game, just like any skater can.
I also like watching good defensive hockey. I like watching the battles in the corners and in front of the net. The game of hockey is won in the trenches, and those are the little things that sometimes go unnoticed. Not every player around the NHL is “skilled,” but the players who are not as skilled do plenty of things that go unnoticed. The non-skilled players may not score the highlight reel goals every night, but they excel in other areas of the game.
Making the nets bigger or shrinking the goaltender equipment will cater more toward the skilled/star players around the NHL, but it will probably have little affect on the non-skilled/non-star players.
The game of hockey will be ruined if the NHL decides to make scoring more like the NFL. The league needs to cater to all of their players, and they need to keep the competitive balance good. If goals become “automatic,” that hurts the competitive nature of the sport. If the competitive nature of the sport is ruined, people will get bored easily.
My hope is that the NHL will leave things alone for the time being. There are plenty of skilled players and great goaltenders around the NHL today. Let the players earn their goals for their respective clubs. Goals should not be considered a guarantee.
By George Foussekis