Sep 22, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; NHL referee Kevin Pollock (33) throws Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) out of the game after a fight against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Buffalo 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rants And Rumblings : New Rules for 2013-14

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In my first rants and rumblings of the new season, we take a closer look at the rule changes being implemented for the 2013-14 season and those being tested for approval by the NHLPA.

We have gotten a good look now that the preseason is drawing to a close and can make some valid observations on what we have seen thus far.

Some will be happy with the changes, others clearly will not. But, at the end of the day, the league feels the game will be better off for it and that is what matters the most.

Sports that are reluctant to change can often get caught suffering from fan backlash (I am talking directly to Major League Baseball, who continue to insist that it’s fine and dandy to take sometimes 4-5 hours to complete a game) so sometimes even minor tweaks can be so beneficial to the game’s bottom line result on the playing surface.

And we are not exactly talking about smaller nets, a larger puck or being able to use two sticks at the same time right? The changes are, in comparison, much more minor than they could have been.

 

Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Hybrid Icing

The league has seen an increase (albeit it’s still just a very small percentage of injuries overall) incidents with players getting injured rushing back at full speed to either force an icing or nullify one.

It happens to be one of the most dangerous situations in hockey that could be easily rectified and the league has taken that step this preseason in testing. The change still has to be approved by a majority of the NHLPA but has already seen benefits.

My only question would be why not just go ‘no-touch’? The one thing I saw in the Barclays Center game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders was Kyle Okposo clearly tied with the defender racing back at the circles yet the linesman still blowing dead for icing. Why not take the decision out of the officials hands all together? Blow it dead as soon as the puck crosses the line. It eliminates any kind of race whatsoever and could also speed up the game a little by having players more ready for the ensuing faceoff.

My verdict : Thumbs up

 

Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Smaller Goaltender Pads

There really is no conclusive way to decide what effect this will have on scoring in the National Hockey League. Sure, the time when goaltenders can dress up like Robocop on Halloween is long gone and restricting the length and width of the equipment could be a solution to the league’s scoring decline that has been happening steadily since the 2004-05 season.

But any uptick this season is obviously going to be tied to this new regulation, with the league taking all of the credit. Could it just be scorers getting more deadly with their accuracy and velocity? Goaltenders dealing with more and more traffic in the crease, lending credence to the old adage, ‘you can’t stop what you can’t see?’.

Either way, I am sure fans will not be bothered too much by any increase in goals hitting the twine instead of a goaltenders pads.

My Verdict : Thumbs up

 

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Shallower Nets

The bottom depth of the nets are now four inches more shallow as well as the radius on the curved sides.  Many believe this could help teams in two ways…

The power play could see an uptick in setups from behind the goal with more room to maneuver and also could provide more room for cross crease goals (yes, the one’s made famous by EA Sports NHL series).

It could also mean the return of the wrap-around goal, which has certainly lost its way in terms of creativity in past years.

As I mentioned previously, any uptick in scoring is sure to please most NHL fans.

My Verdict : Thumbs up

 

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Video Review On Double Minor High Sticking Penalties

This is a simple change. While many believe full scale review is still needed in the league, this will at least give officials a chance to get this call right and hopefully even stop some of the English Premier League embellishment we are starting to see creep into our game.

Any high-sticking penalty deemed worthy of a double minor can now be reviewed by the officials on the ice by calling to the Toronto war room.

My Verdict : Thumbs up

 

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Visors For Incoming Players

Player safety is a hot button issue in the league and they certainly got it right on this one. The game is becoming faster and played by men who are only getting bigger and stronger.

After seeing the devastating injuries suffered by Ian LaPierre and Marc Staal in recent years, this is the only logical thing to do, such as when the mandatory helmet rule was instituted many, many years ago.

Any player who played 25 or fewer games in the NHL last season (playoffs included), is mandated to wear a visor on their helmet. This will help protect from not only puck injuries, but errant sticks and in some cases, even skate cuts and applies to just about all the Islanders youngsters, including Ryan Strome, Matt Donovan and Anders Lee just to name a few.

My Verdict : Huge thumbs up

 

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Penalty For Tucked In Jerseys

Players who tuck their jerseys into their equipment will first be given a warning, then a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty and possibly even a 10 minute and game misconduct.

This smells of two things from the league perspective for me. One, more control, plain and simple. With numbers being splattered on jerseys everywhere from the sleeves to even the front, there just is no logic in the league rationale that numbers need to be VISIBLE at all times.

Secondly, advertisements on jerseys could be coming downstream. This is already a staple in European leagues and to be completely 100% honest and very direct, I might not ever buy another jersey if that becomes the case. Players would be turned into walking billboards.

My Verdict: Eight thousand thumbs down

 

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Extra Penalty For Removing Helmet to Fight

The instigator penalty and new restrictions around third man in rules did not do much to change fighting since they were instituted.

This year, a two minute penalty will be added to the five minute major for removing your helmet prior to a fight.

We all know fighting of any sort is a dangerous game only this is done on ice with razor sharp skates on. We have already seen this preseason, in a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, a player get almost knocked unconscious after banging his head on the ice post fight.

It is something that is more serious that most give it credit for and can end a players career and possibly even life. I applaud the effort here but question the enforcement.

Krys Barch and Brett Gallant already proved this rule is an impossible one to enforce, making a mockery of it in a preseason tilt between the Devils and Islanders.

My Verdict : Closed fist

 

Sound off in our comments section below on what you think of the changes the league has instituted this season. As always, thanks for reading Eyes On Isles.

 

Andy (@tazman19)

 

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