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San Jose Sharks Gameday: NHL 3.0

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We take a look back at the rule changes that came out of the last lockout, and speculate about what changes this new lockout could bring.

Meet the new leading scorer for the San Jose Sharks!
Meet the new leading scorer for the San Jose Sharks!
Christian Petersen

You may not know this, but this current lockout isn't actually the first the NHL has suffered in the modern era.

I know, it's hard to believe.

And while the previous lockout, in 2004-2005, was full of much of the same bitterness and rancor as the one we are now living, some good DID come out of it. Aside from addressing many of the major economic problems in the league at the time (until everything somehow broke again less than 10 years later) it was also an opportunity for the league to adopt a slew of rule changes designed to improve the game.

In case you've forgotten about these rule changes, let's look at a summary via Wikipedia:

Rule changes

After experimenting with many rule changes in 2004–05 in the American Hockey League (AHL), many of the rule changes from the previous year were adopted, with changes:

  • The league introduced shoot-outs at the end of over-time if the score is tied.[2] The shootout features only three shots per team, and if it is still tied, the shootout becomes sudden death. In preseason games (regardless of the outcome) shootouts were held. This rule is similar to the one used in 2004–05 in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). For 2005–06, however, the AHL and ECHL shootouts remained at five shots, and the SPHL adopted the five shot format. Shootouts are only in effect for regular-season games. Playoff games will continue with twenty-minute periods until a sudden-death goal is scored.)

I personally like shootouts, and think they're a fine and exciting way to settle ties in the regular season. I know a lot of people don't like them though, and this is probably the most controversial of the 2005 rule changes.

While not as radical of a change as the shootouts, I think most people are pretty happy with how this one has worked out. Combined with the elimination of two-line pass penalties and the emphasis on calling obstruction calls (for a while anyway) the league was successful (again, for a while anyway) at reducing the power of the neutral zone trap.

In related news, check out the awesome Wikipedia page for the neutral zone trap.

  • If a team ices the puck, it is not allowed to make a line change afterwards.[2] (This rule was not experimented with in the 2004–05 AHL season.)

This was a great change, and forces teams to make interesting strategic decisions that never came up in the past. It has also created an additional opportunity for a time-out to be useful, which in my opinion is a good thing.

I'm not sure why it isn't listed here on the rule changes (maybe it was more of a new directive to officials rather than an actual new rule?) but the hurry-up faceoffs that began with the 05-06 season were another fantastic idea. Players standing around and chatting in the worst part of watching any sport (and this is why baseball sucks, because it's like 85% just dudes chatting), so the NHL was wise to eliminate the down-time between action.

  • Linesmen are given more discretion when it comes to waving off icing calls when they are accidentally made as the result of a failed pass attempt.

This was probably a good thing. Giving the officials more discretion is usually smart.

  • A longstanding ECHL rule in which players who instigate a fight in the last five minutes of a game will be given a game misconduct penalty plus a one-game suspension is adopted.[2] Furthermore, the player's coach will be fined $10,000 (US).

I'm a big fan of fighting, but this was another good rule change. I would even support modifying this to include more of a penalty for the actual team - maybe starting their next game with a penalty? - rather than just punishing the probably-crappy player who instigated the fight.

  • Goaltender equipment was reduced in size by eleven percent.[2]

Smart. Maybe we can do this again?

  • All referees are equipped with wireless microphones so they can now announce penalties over the public address system, similar to NFL referees.
    • With multiple penalties, only the first will be announced by the referee calling the penalty, with the others being announced by the arena's ice-side PA announcer.

Fun, but not that big of a deal.

  • Any player that shoots the puck over the glass (without deflection) from his own defensive zone will be penalized for delay of game. After the 2006 Olympic break, the rule has been modified to read that the puck must cross the glass before crossing the blue line.

I understand the point of this rule, but is there ANYONE who thinks that this shouldn't be up to the discretion of the official? How many times do we have to see the case of a player who was honestly just trying to clear the puck of his zone getting a penalty for accidentally shooting it over the glass? That wasn't the point of this rule. Give officials the option to call this penalty if it looks like a player intentionally shot it out, sure - but if it was just a botched clearing attempt then just have a face-off in the player's defensive zone.

  • After the 2006 Olympic break, all sticks to be used in the shootout will be measured prior to use.

Sure, fine.

The rule experimentation was based on the previous season of play in the American Hockey League, and was based on creating a more exciting game and will create more scoring opportunities, and therefore more goals.

I think most fans would agree that the rules changes that came out of the last lockout were big boon to the game. The hockey we are watching these days (well, not literally THESE days, obviously, with the lockout and all, but you know what I mean) IS more open and exciting than it was in the seasons prior to the previous lockout. And while it is true that goal scoring has come down in recent seasons compared to the seasons immediately following the 04-05 lockout, most of the drop is attributable to a reduction in power plays, which is something that's pretty easy to fix, if the league decides to do so.

So if the revisions to the rules that came out of the last lockout were, for the most part, positive, can we hope for more of the same this time? What are the biggest problems with the way NHL hockey was played in 11-12, and what sorts of rule changes would you like to see to address these problems?

Here is an article on the subject to get you thinking. Post your proposed rule changes in the comments, and I'll discuss some ideas next time.

* * *

Final - 11.5.2012 1 2 3 Total
San Jose Sharks 1 2 1 4
Colorado Avalanche 1 0 0 1

Complete Coverage >

- Wherever these results are coming from, one thing is definitely true: the Colorado Avalanche suck.