Hockey fans tend to be a fickle bunch when talking about rules. As long as the rules work to the benefit of your team, why change anything? And if there's a rule that somehow puts your side at a disadvantage, you can bet fights have been started (mostly over the Internet) about exactly how Gary Bettman has conspired to deny your team (Buffalo Sabres) a shot at all the glory (he has). Then there are always the safety-inspired rule changes, which have seen a lot of revisions in the last few years with added emphasis on concussions and head-trauma.
With that in mind, the writers here at Die By The Blade spoke up about what rule changes they'd like to see in the NHL.
My rule change - and yes, this is the easiest one to make - would be to eliminate the shootout. Barring that, an additional 3-on-3 overtime or extended 4-on-4 would help to reduce the number of shootouts.
As exciting as it was when it was first introduced, we've seen way too many playoff positions decided by the skills competition for my liking. As bad as the Sabres were last year, they actually seemed a whole lot better than they could have been thanks to a 7-5 record in the shootout. On the other hand, New Jersey missed he playoffs by 4 points thanks to an incredible 0-13 shootout record. It's time to go back to hockey games decided by, you know, actual hockey.
The rule that I'd change first would actually just be changing back one of the more recent adjustments, the delay of game penalty. In theory the rule made sense, you'd prefer defenseman to not shoot the puck over the glass to get out of a sticky situation because A) you don't want to slow down play and B) you'd like as few pucks flying at spectators as possible.
However, in game action it leads to more accidental penalties than anything and numerous situations where the referees can't tell if the puck deflected or not. It's unnecessary and can be a huge shift in momentum for something so silly as the puck going a bit too high.
I've always liked the 4-on-4 to a 3-on-3 before a shootout but Andy already stole that one.
So if I can't piggy-back off that one I'd say a far second for me would be implementing a coaches challenge and expanded instant replay. The NHL gets it right with the video review most of the time but there are times when they clearly miss reviewing something. It would have to be implemented so as not to slow the game down, something similar to the NFL's system would help with that. Expanding what the instant replay can check, high sticks and goalie interference for example, would also be nice.
I would return overtime to what it used to be, and what it is in the playoffs. I know that it's time consuming and could lead to a LOT of free hockey, but I like 20 minute, sudden death OT, I always have. I hate this 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 business. Hate it.
The rule I'd like to see changed is the ice size. Now this is going to be controversial as it would mean reduced seating and therefore fewer tickets sold for teams, but the franchises could also recoup some of that with the increased advertising space on the boards.
A standard North American rink is 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, with goal lines 11 feet from the end boards. The European sheet is 210 feet long and 98 feet wide, and goal lines are 13 feet from the end boards.The added ice surface allows for greater emphasis on skating, skill and speed versus the clutching and grabbing which has become a staple of NHL play. Teams that play defense that relies on pursuing the puck-carrier with the sole aim of standing them up or plastering the forwards against the boards will be forced to play a more zonal defense, where the d-men will have to show more skating agility than just moonwalking.
Some misconceptions and characteristics about playing on a bigger sheet - blind speed does not trump puck possession. Players that make better decisions with the puck are more important than those that can tear up and down the wings. Defensemen rarely venture out beyond the dots to avoid getting caught out of position. There is also less emphasis on getting the puck to the net as that is tantamount to turning the puck over. And then getting the puck back even with a ferocious forecheck is well nigh impossible because of the wide open spaces.