Some rule changes we’d like to see

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MAY 04: Referee Mark Lemelin #41 and referee Frederick L'Ecuyer #17 work the game between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on May 04, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MAY 04: Referee Mark Lemelin #41 and referee Frederick L'Ecuyer #17 work the game between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins at the Prudential Center on May 04, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers are practicing for their return to action on Tuesday against Boston.  There’s not a lot of news coming out of the practice facility, so it’s time to take a look of the rule book and provide our list of rules we’d like to see changed.  The odds that we will see any of these changes made are slim to none, but it’s fun to put them out there.


The Brad Marchand six-game suspension for sucker punching Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry  reminded us of this one.  Why not suspend players for specific games against specific teams, whenever possible?   To be honest, the Penguins were the victims of Marchand’s dirty play, but they won’t benefit from Marchand’s suspension.  In fact, they will be penalized because Marchand will be sitting out key Division matchups with Carolina and the Rangers teams the Penguins need to finish ahead of.

Here’s how it would work. In Marchand’s case, the Penguins play the Bruins two times this season.  Marchand should be forced to sit out both of those games despite the fact that they don’t play for several weeks, along with the next four games in the regular schedule.  That way, the Bruins lose his services against the Penguins along with the four other games.

If the NHL is looking to get away from retaliation and fighting, having Marchand out of the next games this season with the Penguins, means that they will avoid the inevitable rematch, a meeting that the Penguins have marked on their calendars as the date that they can get even.

Of course, if the two teams don’t play again in the same season, the suspension would be as it is now, the next six games in the schedule.  It’s a creative and fair way of penalizing players.   Could it happen?  No way.

That kicking motion

When is a kick a kick?  There is no pure definition of a “distinct kicking motion” in the rulebook and that leaves the decision up to the referees with the result being a total lack of consistency.  We’ve seen pucks go in off skates angled to deflect the puck along with pucks off skates fully in motion.

So, to eliminate any question, why not just make the rule that the goal doesn’t count if the skate moves?  A puck that goes off a skate planted in front of the net would count.  A puck deflected by a player who angles his skate, it doesn’t count.  No more ambiguity.  Video review would provide definitive proof so there should be no issue in seeing if the skate actually moves.

The NHL already allows goals to count if they bounce off any other part of the body, it’s just the skate that is the issue.   This eliminates any questions.

It will probably take a high profile playoff controversy for the NHL to consider revising this rule.

The offside challenge

The offside challenge is absurd.  For one thing, teams will not challenge unless they are pretty damned sure that the team was off side.  A team could enter the attacking zone offside by a nano-second, then spend a full minute in the zone before scoring. The puck can actually change hands but if the attacking team regains control and scores, it will be called back.  The only criteria is it has to be the zone entry prior to the goal being scored.

One way around this would be to institute a time limit on how long after the infraction a goal can be challenged.  Make it a 30 second rule.  If a puck has been in the offensive zone for 30 seconds after zone entry, it cannot be challenged for offsides.  Setting a time limit would allow goals that are scored and disallowed despite the fact that the zone entry has little or no impact on the scoring of the goal. 30 seconds is an awfully long time, it really should be 20 seconds, but 30 seconds would be better than nothing.

The NHL has tweaked the offside challenge several times so maybe, just maybe, there will be some rational thinking when it comes to challenging goals on offsides plays that have no impact on the goal.

Bring back intentional offsides

The intentional offsides rule used to called a lot under the old offsides rules.   Before theNHL adopted the delayed offside, any time a puck entered the attacking zone when a player was offside, the whistle was blown.  It slowed down play so the delayed offside was adopted to speed up the game.

Under the old rule, a player could send the puck into the offensive zone when it was clearly offside.  While the play would be whistled dead, the faceoff would be held in the offending team’s zone.

Now, a defending player will intentionally send it into the attacking zone knowing that it will be a delayed offside.  They do it to get a change or to prevent the other team from a breakout. On plays like that, the linesmen should have the discretion to call a  delayed offside an intentional offside.

The penalty would be whistled dead and the ensuing faceoff would be held in the defensive zone for the team that committed the infraction.  It would eliminate teams using the delayed offside with no consequences when they are caught up ice.

This one should be easy.  The critics would say that it would create more play stoppages, but it would actually create more opportunities for offense.  There’s not a lot of appetite for this change so it won’t be happening anytime soon.

Shorthanded goals end power plays

There is no denying that a shorthanded goal is devastating to the team on the power play.  Let’s make it even worse.  Under our new rule, if a team scores shorthanded, the penalty is over.  How many times have we seen a team score shorthanded, but then get scored on.  The shorthanded goal can result in a huge swing in momentum and that is gone if the power play continues and especially if the team with the man advantage scores.

While this could just apply to two-minute minor penalties, imagine if it also applied to five-minute major penalties?  It would change the whole dynamic of penalty killing, putting a higher value on trying for offense while killing penalties.

This would create a market for skilled penalty killers who are also able to score, players like Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and from the past, Michael Grabner.

There’s been some chatter about this recently so it may see the light of day.

Get rid of the trapezoid

Even if Igor Shesterkin wasn’t such a good stickhandler we would still be in favor of getting rid of the trapezoid rule and allowing goalies to handle the puck anywhere in the defensive zone. Enacted in an effort to increase scoring, what it has done is punish goalies who can stickhandle and make it more dangerous for defenseman who end up getting crunched into the boards when an offensive team sends the puck into that area.

There’s never been any definitive proof that it improves scoring and considering that it was instituted at a time when the neutral zone trap had reduced NHL scoring, it’s time to get rid of the rule.  Goalies like Shesterkin can help boost offense with their stickhandling.  Goalies who cannot handle the puck will make it even more of an adventure when they go out to handle the puck.

There’s been some movement in this area so we could see a change here in the future.

Some rules for the end of games

Nothing is more exciting than the final minutes of a one-goal game with the goalie pulled. The NHL should treat the end of a game differently and institute some rule changes to make the final few minutes of games more interesting.   There are three rules we’d love to see.

First, there should be a three minute warning as close to the 57 minute mark as possible.  Once the three minute warning is given, there would be two more rule changes.  So, as soon as the game entered the final three minutes, at the next play stoppage, the officials should institute the following two rules.

The first is no more freezing the puck.  We’ve all seen it.  A defending player or two trap he puck against the boards and hold it there while the offensive team whacks and pushes in an attempt to free the puck.  This can go on for long stretches, killing the flow of the game and rewarding play that kills the game.

The NHL should give the referees the discretion to whistle the play dead if the defending team makes no effort to move the puck.  That would result in a faceoff.  In the old NHL,  play was whistled dead when it was “frozen” on the boards.  Now, it’s rarely called.  Within the final three minutes of a game, it should be called, to encourage puck movement.

The second rule can be call the “Igor Shesterkin goal scoring” rule. There is no more exciting play than a goalie shooting for the empty net. The goal of the NHL should be to encourage goalies to try to do it and one way would be to make it legal for goalies to shoot the puck the length of the ice within the final three minutes and not be called for icing.  If not facing an icing call, you would have to believe that more goalies would go for glory and try to score.  And that would make the game more fun to watch.

Will these rules be adopted?  Again, it’s doubtful.

A change in overtime

The five minute overtime is getting ridiculous.  Teams will hold onto the puck, actually retreating from the attacking zone to re-form.  We’ve seen teams pass the puck to their own goalie while they change.  There’s one way to keep overtime more exciting and more offensively driven and that would be to institute a “reverse offside” rule.

In this rule, if team passes or carries the puck outside of the attacking zone, it is ruled a reverse offside and there is a faceoff in center ice.   If that is too extreme, make the center ice red line the reverse offside line.

Basically, attacking teams would have to stay on the offensive side of the red line or risk a stoppage of play which could mean loss of possession.   Of course, we could see players “accidentally lose possession” by sending the the puck out of the offensive zone, but it doesn’t matter, it would result in loss of possession and a faceoff.

It’s obvious that possession is crucial in the 3v3 overtime, but in order to maintain possession, teams will retreat into their own zone repeatedly if they cannot get into the attacking zone. Do fans really want to see players circling around and around their own zone while on 3v3 hockey?

Not only that, teams defending would pressure the puck carrier who would have no option but to advance the puck or risk losing possession on a faceoff.

Some hockey folks have talked about this possible change and even gave it the “reverse faceoff” name.  It’s possible that the league could adopt it if the overtime periods keep losing their luster.  3v3 hockey should be an insane series of back and forth rushes instead of repeated circling in the defensive zone.

Can they happen?

Changing hockey rules is an arduous process.  The General Managers have to recommend the changes and they have to be approved by the Board of Governors.  It can take years to get a new rule in place.  That said, they can move pretty quickly, enacting the “Sean Avery rule” during the playoffs within a day of the game when Avery interfered with Martin Brodeur’s ability to see the puck.

Unfortunately, rule changes often don’t happen until a high profile incident draws attention to the need for change.  When it comes to highly controversial rules that could bring negative attention to the NHL, it’s the “kicking motion” and “offside challenge” rules that could taint a Stanley Cup championship.

The other rule changes we are recommending are just ways we think the game could be improved.  Are there any rules you think need to changed?  Feel free to weigh in below along with your feelings about the rule changes we are recommending.

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