OTTAWA, ON - SEPTEMBER 19: Referee Pierre Lambert (37) prepares for a face-off during second period National Hockey League preseason action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators on September 19, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Top 5 Suggestions NHL should put on the table to improve the game’s overall appeal. The National Hockey League has come a long way since its “Original Six” days. Changes can always be made in the NHL that could bring the league successfully into the future. Adopting new rules could make the sport safer and more exciting to watch.

1. Drop the Darn Puck

Boys will be boys. Let them battle it out at the face-off dot the old fashioned way. Some players are 6 foot 4 and some are 5 foot 9. The smaller player needs to somehow gain an advantage, right? Just drop the puck and let them play. Games in any sport usually are too long. Face-offs are one of the biggest time wasters in hockey. Linesmen are relentless at tossing the first center from the face-off dot. By the way, each linesman seems to have his own set of rules for tossing a player. Coaches have strategies and can employ two centers for face-offs. If the first center gets the boot, the second center takes the draw. This can make the infraction at least somewhat pointless but it still delays the game.

Watch and Learn

Just watch any NHL hockey game and pay close attention to the face-offs. The linesman determines if either center is breaking the rules. Maybe a skate crosses over the face-off line, a center didn’t put his stick down first or even reacted too soon. Make a mistake and your tossed! A replacement comes in to take the draw and the linesman just drops the puck and away they go!

Take advantage of the flaw.

The Boston Bruins could send in Brad Marchand for the draw with the intention of getting tossed then let Patrice Bergeron take the second draw! Bergeron is one of the hockey’s premier face-off men. The linesmen have not given Bergeron a great explanation as to what he is doing wrong. Last season, Bergeron was tossed a few dozen times during the play-offs against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

2. Two-Line Off-Side Pass Rule

This is a recommendation from Bobby Orr himself. If the NHL should listen to anyone, it’s Orr! The Hall of Fame defenceman knows a thing or two about playing hockey. The two-line off-side pass rule was eliminated starting with the 2005-06 season. The NHL’s plan was to speed up the game and create more offense.

Orr said, “It’s made it a dangerous game, guys flying out of their end, looking for that long stretch pass and bang, they’re being hit. These guys are so much bigger and faster than when I played.” Basically, the NHL created another way for concussions to occur. To top it off, players float near the opposing team’s blue line waiting for a pass. Hockey wasn’t intended to be played that way. Yes, I know, the neutral zone trap could find its way back into the game. Just keep in mind that today’s players are bigger, smarter and faster. Plus, updated coaching strategies and analytic info will keep the game just as interesting.

3. Missing Lumber?

I totally understand the constant need to improve hockey equipment. Modern day equipment is better, safer and lighter. A problem area though is with modern carbon fiber/graphite hockey sticks. Not only do they cost hundreds of dollars, they break too easily and often. How many times have you seen a simple slash break the shaft of a stick?  Sticks also break too often during a shot. What if that very shot could have been a game tying goal or the game winner? The game was meant to be played with wooden sticks so bring them back!

Check out the YouTube video of young NHL stars, Jordan Eberle, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly trying their best to use an old style wooden hockey stick! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeF6kvbKDeY

4. Shoot Outs Are Stupid But You Already Knew This!

The NHL implemented the shoot-out starting with the 2005-06 season to decide the outcome of games that remained tied after a five minute overtime period. The eventual winner is awarded an extra point. Coaching staffs employ detailed strategies and analytics to win a hockey game. The shoot-out takes away from the strategy by ending the game with a bunch of circus moves. Many of the players don’t even appear to be trying all that hard to score!

The NHL is the best hockey league in the world so finishing off important contests with a shoot-out is rather absurd. Play three-on-three until you have a winner! Trust me. The time saved with putting an end to the foolish face-off conundrum will make up for any extra time spent in overtime. The game would still likely end sooner than before.

5. Let Me Make My Point

The NHL does have a decent option here. Simply follow what the KHL does. Three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shoot-out victory and one point for an overtime/shoot-out loss. Although this would be better than the current point system, I still take issue with the losing team getting a point at all.

Now, I’d like to tell you about a point system that I have thought about for years and would love to see implemented. Three points for a shut-out! Yes, you read that right. Currently, a shut-out is just a goaltender and team defense statistic. Here’s why it should be worth an extra point. You not only won the game, you didn’t even allow your opponent to score!

Right Back In It

Think about the effect this will have throughout the league. If a team lower in the standings records a shut-out and gets the extra point, that team could put themselves right back into the thick of things. This could create a more interesting game because it changes everything!

Teams will try harder to score to prevent you from getting that extra shut-out point. Teams will also do what they can to defend so they can gain that extra point and move up in the standings. You are losing the game 5-0 late in the third, what do you do? Pull the goalie and try to score to prevent your opponent from getting that extra point of course! Three points for a shut-out, two points for a regulation or overtime victory and zero points for any kind of loss! Makes for some exciting hockey, don’t you think?

What will it take for the NHL to adopt changes like the five mentioned here? Even if two suggestions from this list get implemented, it should help improve the game’s overall appeal.

I would love your feedback and any different suggestions that you may have. Follow me on Twitter – @LWOSPaulDeMelin, Find me on Facebook – Paul DeMelin

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