Lighting the Lamp: Small Tweaks to Boost NHL Goal Scoring

Andy Bensch offers up two unique ways the NHL can “pump up the volume” on  goal scoring.

For those of you who aren’t aware, NHL arenas play the same portion of the same song after every goal scored by the home team. A couple of the more popular “goal songs” are San Jose’s “The Hey Song” (aka Gary Glitter’s Rock N’ Roll Part 2), and Chicago’s “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis.

A few seasons ago, the Sharks organization made a change in the goal song because — well…let’s just say Garry Glitter was linked to some bad stuff. During the 2006-07 season, the Sharks went with “Holiday” by Green Day as their goal song. However, after Sharks fans expressed their distaste, Rock N’ Roll Part 2 was back the following season.

Translation: the song played after a goal is a big deal for hockey fans –it’s one of the many reasons to attend hockey games in in person.

Now as the saying goes, too much of anything is never a good thing. And nobody wants to see hockey scores of 8-7 becoming the norm. However, a minor increase in scoring would be a welcome sight for almost all involved in the game, except maybe goalies.

It’s highly unlikely that any Blackhawk fans would have qualms about hearing Chelsea Dagger 15-20 more times in a given season.

So how should the NHL make a go about increasing the goal scoring? Some ideas thrown out there recently just don’t sit well with yours truly.

One of those is that the league should shrink the pad size worn by the goaltenders. But there are a couple of issues with this type of change. 1) This exact tweak has already been done in recent seasons and 2) It just has the stigma of a cheap and unfair way of increasing scoring. Making this change again would be like the NHL board of governors telling each goalie in the league “you are too damn good, so we are specifically going to make your job harder by taking things away from you.”

Likewise, the idea of increasing the net size is like telling the snipers out there “you suck at shooting, so we are going to make it easier on you to score.” And that is just preposterous.

The league does not have to get that drastic with their changes to directly effect the individual player’s ability to do his job.

Rather a couple minor tweaks in the application of certain rules can help boost scoring without taking away from goaltenders or giving more net to the shooters.

The first tweak that should be utilized is a change in power-play/penalty kill situations. And full marks go to former Sharks player and current radio color man Jamie Baker for cooking this one up (it was his blog on sharks.nhl.com that first brought this idea to my attention).

Currently when a team is playing down a skater (penalty kill) they are allowed to “ice” the puck by shooting it all the way down the ice from their own half of the rink. During normal even strength play, shooting the puck down behind the goal-line from your own half of the rink is called “icing” where (without getting into too much detail) play stops and the puck is retrieved and brought all the way back down for a face-off near the offending teams goaltender.

Now as Jamie points out, why should a team being penalized gain an advantage of any sort? When we stop and think about that, it doesn’t make logical sense to give the penalized team any advantage. If the NHL were to take away the free ability for the penalty killing team to “ice” the puck, there would be a significant increase in power-play goal scoring.

Currently the top power-play teams in the league are successful at about a 20% rate, and given this proposed rule change, that would almost certainly go up by a few percent, and who would complain about that?

It would be good for the sport because it would increase scoring two-fold. More power-play goals would be scored and it should make players be a bit more cautious in taking penalties which lends towards a few more even strength goals being scored.

The second tweak involves a retraining of the NHL linesmen. Currently NHL games have two referees who call penalties and two linesmen who mainly call the offsides and icings.

Currently, the NHL has trained linesman to blow the play dead on offsides in an incredibly tight manner. Translation: There are twice as many (if not more) instances in a season where the offensive team is complaining about an offsides whistle than a team/coaching staff arguing that an offsides was missed.

In any given NHL contest, you can be assured there will be a play whistled down for offsides that had no business being whistled down. For some reason, the benefit of the doubt has seemed to go the way of blowing the offsides whistle instead of not blowing it.

Why is this the case you ask?  Hard for me or anyone else to say. If the benefit of the doubt would be to let the play continue, there would be a genuine increase in offensive chances.

One specific play comes to mind in the Stanley Cup final when Kings star defenseman Drew Doughty clearly kept a puck inside the zone (the puck was still on the edge of the blue-line) and had the play been allowed to continue the Kings would have been in store for a quality look at the net. Unfortunately the linesman blew the play dead and you could see just how incensed Doughty was at the call.

It was clear to me watching on television that the puck never fully left the zone and yet the lineman blew his whistle. By doing so, the linesman is looked at as the bad guy for missing a call. Yet had he let the play continue, and the Kings had scored a goal, nobody on the Devils would be complaining because none of them had as good of a view on the play as did Doughty or the linesman.

This play, although clear to Doughty and yours truly, was indeed very, very close play. And these close offsides plays generally speaking are whistled down instead of being let go. It really is a shame because the defending team (on offsides where the puck has long been in the zone, not on ones involving initial zone entry) are getting lucky on these calls when they should have done a better job clearing the puck fully out of the zone.

Why does the defending team get the majority of the breaks in this case? If it were the other way around we would have more goals being scored. And as mentioned above, with the exception of goalies, most everyone involved in the game would love a few more goals.

C’mon NHL, before making changes to the size of things, let’s try some minor tweaks first.

Andrew Bensch writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @AndyBensch

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