The NHL is always looking for ways to improve the game and tweak the rule book, often with increasing scoring as the objective. Well, perhaps commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy-commissioner Bill Daly should consult New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal before the next league meeting.
Last week, a number of ESPN reporters spent time with over a dozen stars at an NHL Player Media Tour near Las Vegas and asked each a series of questions. Among them was "If you could remove or change one rule in the NHL, what would it be?"
Some wanted to get rid of the trapezoid (a goalie, of course), others want 3-on-3 to keep going until there is a winner, and another wanted to eliminate the delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. It was the first thing that came to their minds, like ending traveling dress codes.
But this was a question Barzal was ready for, he was so ready that he pulled out his iPhone and opened up a document where he keeps a running list of "Ideas for the Game."
"You know what I did? I made a list of rules that I would change. Here it is: 'Ideas for The Game.' Here's what the league needs to do: The league needs to find a way to only have two refs on the ice. The refs are in the way all the time. There needs to be a way to have the game controlled without officials being in the way. It's always happening.""- Mathew Barzal to ESPN
As one of the most skilled skaters in the league, it's not surprising that Barzal would want even more open ice. Prior to the 1998-99 season, there was only one referee and two linesmen on the ice. Then the league instituted a two-referee system to go along with a pair of defensemen. Barzal has never played an NHL game with three on-ice officials, and he wants that number dropped down to two.
Could linesmen be placed off the ice to make off-sides calls? Could technology be improved to make calls on off-sides and icing someday? Could two referees adequately pick up all the deflections, high sticks, etc that they often rely on linesmen to confirm? It's something to think about - Barzal has!
As for the rest of the list, Greg Wyshynski tried but was unsuccessful this time around.
Here were Barzal's responses to the other questions. If you are a follower of his Instagram account, you already had a good idea of how he spent his summer in Europe.
What's the best thing you did this summer?
"I was in Paris for five days. Loved Paris; fashion, food, lifestyle. Then the Amalfi Coast for like nine days. Just beach clubs and so relaxing. The Mediterranean Sea is so relaxing and beautiful. But the coolest thing that I did? I rented a Vespa and went scootering around the side of the Amalfi Coast. Super cool."
What offseason NHL trade or signing surprised you the most?
"The Nazem Kadri speculation was all over the place, so that was fun to follow. We were involved. When you're involved, it makes it more fun too -- 'Is this going to happen or not?'"
What team -- other than your own -- are you most excited to watch this season?
"Ottawa's pretty enticing to watch. New guys and a high-powered offense. We'll see."