Because it's early September and we don't have any actual hockey to talk about, the NHL decided to throw its fans a bone today and announced a number of rule changes that will come into effect for the upcoming season. In all there were ten rule changes, most of which amount to little more than tweaks, but in the second week of September, this is as good as it gets for hockey news.
The NHL's official announcement has all the details. Some thoughts:
Rule 1.8 – Rink - Goalkeeper's Restricted Area
The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides of the net.
Increasing the size of the trapezoid is a good thing. Eliminating the trapezoid entirely would be better, but one thing at a time.
Rule 23 – Game Misconduct Penalties
A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging, elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the general category into the same category as boarding and checking from behind ("Physical Fouls"), whereby a player who incurs two such game misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one game.
Expanding what constitutes a game misconduct will give the NHL more ways to punish players for the stupid things that players tend to do. I doubt it stops players from being stupid, but again, it's a start.
Rule 57 – Tripping
The rule relating to "Tripping" will be revised to specifically provide that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player "dives" and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck.
Really interesting change here. This is a play you see, I have to think, in almost every game. I've never really thought about making it a penalty before but it's obviously a trip. One more nail in th coffin of the big, slow, defenceman. I'm sure Don Cherry will hate this change.
Rule 64 – Diving / Embellishment
The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3 (Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below.
Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s) 1 Warning N/A 2 $2,000 N/A 3 $3,000 N/A 4 $4,000 $2,000 5 $5,000 $3,000 6 $5,000 $4,000 7 $5,000 $5,000 8 $5,000 $5,000
Nice try, also utterly pointless. Fines are limited by the CBA so there is only so much the NHL could do, but with players making millions of dollars a year fines like this aren't worth the effort.
Rule 76 – Face-offs
To curb delay tactics on face-offs after icing infractions, in situations where the defending team is guilty of a face-off violation, following an icing, the defending player who is initially lined up for the face-off will be given a warning, but will be required to remain in the circle to take the face-off. A second face-off violation by the defending team in such situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.
I'm not sure how much of a problem this was, but it's a minor change, and one that I think makes some sense.
Rule 24 – Penalty Shot
The 'Spin-O-Rama' move, as described in Section 24.2 of the 2013-14 NHL Rule Book, will no longer be permitted either in Penalty Shot situations or in the Shootout.
And right here the NHL loses me. The shootout is a gimmick, I think we all know that. Personally I'm not a fan of the shootout (even less so with the "Bettman point"), but I accept that it has some entertainment value if you let the players do exciting things.
Yes, there were lots of examples of spins where the goalie was interfered with by the shooter, or the puck stopped moving forward, and those are goals that shouldn't have counted. This rule eliminates those goals. But you can also eliminate those goals by simply enforcing the existing rules, thereby allowing players who can execute a spin-o-rama to do just that. That is what I'd call a win-win. Instead the NHL found a solution to a problem that didn't exist.