Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 18 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Decrease size of goalie equipment vs. Increasing size of nets
John Hoven @mayorNHL - There really shouldn't even be a debate on this one. You can't change the size of the nets. No way, no how. Would MLB move the pitcher's mound closer to homeplate? Would the NFL go to eight yards for a first down? No. Sure, rules have to be tweaked as games evolve and advance. But, the size of the nets is too integral to the integrity of the game, the record books, continuity at minor and junior levels, etc. Plus, the goalie equipment is out of control. So, that makes it a much easier target. Here's three points to consider - One, SWAT team officers wear less protection and they're trying to stop bullets from penetrating their bodies. Two, Martin Brodeur, arguably the best goalie of the past 20 years uses shorter pads and he's just fine. So, shorten up the pads and shrink the chest protectors. Technology can help without sacrificing the safety of the goalies. Three, let goalies have the knee protection they need, but give the shooters more to shoot at. Don't buy into the argument that goalies need more protection now because of the shots coming from composite sticks. Remember, back in the day, Al Iafrate and Al MacInnis shot harder with a wooden stick than a lot of guys do now. Shrinkage is the solution!
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - This debate always makes me chuckle. The net in FIFA sanctioned games is 8 yards by 8 feet, and the games end 1-0. In the National Lacrosse League, the goalies are huge, and nets are 4' 9" by 4', and games are routinely 15-14 at the final buzzer. This isn't about the size of pads or the size of the net. It's the nature of the game, and it's about talent. Sure, goalies using pads that are ridiculously large are going to have an advantage, but if everyone is playing under the same rules, it comes down to if the goalie plays their position well. Cutting down angles, the right style, and the ability get vision on the puck through a crowd is always going to trump the size of pads.
This is another thing the NHL continues to entertain the idea because casual fans think hockey would be more exciting if the games ended 9-7. If you've ever watched a 9-7 hockey game, it is an embarrassment to the game, and is painful to watch. Leave the pads alone, leave the nets alone, and let the people who think more goals need to be scored can go watch basketball. In the end, it doesn't really matter. Make the net bigger, goalie pads smaller, goalies will adjust and learn how to stop the puck. Unless they play for the Oilers, in which case, stopping the puck is generally not on the menu.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - If the goal is to increase scoring, and those are the only two options, I think it's obvious that increasing net size will do a better job of achieving the desired result. There's some compelling evidence out there that the escalating size of goaltender equipment did not have a significant effect on lower scoring rates in the NHL over the past two decades. That said, is it really just more goals that we should be aiming for? If hockey is broken (and I'm not entirely sure that it is), wouldn't making adjustments to improve the flow of play, regardless of whether or not the resultant scoring chances end up in the back of the net, be a more effective strategy? I personally couldn't care less if a game ends 2-1 or 7-6; as far as excitement level is concerned, it's all about watching the most talented players in the world exploit the mistakes of other members of the most talented players in the world club to create scoring opportunities. A further crackdown on interference and obstruction penalties would likely make the NHL more fun to watch than simply widening the nets, in my humble opinion.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - I'd prefer to see the league increase the size of nets, though I'm a purist at heart and would ideally see the league make neither change. I know that goaltenders, even with current padding, get bruised and battered stopping vulcanized rubber moving hundreds of miles per hour in games. Their safety should be paramount so I'd rather see the size of the net increase if a gun was to my head. The one benefit of increasing the size of the nets would be allowing pure skill and true talent to show through more which happens less and less in a collapse-heavy, defensive oriented league.
2. Iginla, Morrow, and Murray; should the NHL name the Penguins the Stanley Cup champs now?
John Hoven - Did they trade for a goalie and we all missed it? The Penguins loaded up, no doubt. But, they still might have to face Henrik Lundqvist or Tuukka Rask in the playoffs. Both guys have a better save percentage and lower goals against averages. Even Craig Anderson has put up better numbers this year in Ottawa. And, what happens if they square off with Martin Brodeur? If any one of those guys are hot at the time they meet up with the Penguins, how many people would take Marc-André Fleury as the clear cut, absolute winner? Probably not many outside of Pittsburgh. Morrow and Iginla might not even get enough ice time to be significant difference makers. They could be playing third and fourth line minutes. Kudos to Ray Shero. Those were very astute moves and his hockey club is better today than it was three weeks ago. But, give them the Cup? Hardly. They play the games on the ice for a reason.
Nathan Eide - Well, with Iginla unable to put up 10 goals a season against the Wild for the Penguins this season, it will dramatically affect his offensive output. Honestly, Douglas Murray and Brendan Morrow do nothing for me and the Penguins essentially gave up their entire draft class for a 2013 Stanley Cup run. If they don't win it all, Ray Shero stands to look incredibly foolish, and I don't think Murray, Morrow and Iginla are good enough to push them over the hump against the best of the West.
Derek Tanabe - Nope. I'm not even sure the Penguins will be the team to come out of the East. Don't get me wrong, Pittsburgh is terrific; their top nine trumps just about any team in the league and having two of the best forwards in the NHL allows them to pretty much score at will. And while I don't really think adding Douglas Murray nor Brenden Morrow does a whole lot to change that in either direction, Jarome Iginla is probably a useful addition even though he's essentially a slightly better Dany Heatley at this point in his career. But this is still a team that employs the exceedingly average Marc-Andre Fleury in net. If they run into the Tuukka Rask-backstopped Bruins, a superior possession team to the Penguins to boot, they could have trouble even making it to the Final. Should they trounce or avoid the Bruins, they'll still likely have Los Angeles or Chicago waiting for them, both of whom are still better clubs. The Pens should make the final four (although I would have said that had Ray Shero completely sat on his hands this past week) but I'm not engraving their names into the Cup just yet.
Thomas Drance - Nah, Boston's still better (and so is Los Angeles and Chicago, for that matter). I wouldn't want to be the coach making a defensive game plan to try and contain Sidney Crosby in a playoff series though.
3. How to fix league wide diving/embellishment? The 2 player penalty/diving calls isn’t working.
John Hoven - How about getting the Department of Player Safety more involved with diving? Two penalties has never made much sense. Either it's diving or there was another penalty that occurred first. There should only be one penalty called, not a hook and a diving call at the same time. It seemed like the hook/diving was a little more prevalent in the dead puck era and minor penalties were called for both players. But it starting to look like diving might be creeping back into the game. Perhaps the best way to keep it out, as with major calls (i.e. boarding, head-shots and elbows) is to severely punish those types of infractions. Keep a list of repeat offenders and make the penalties long. If the NHL General Managers are serious about wanting to eliminate the embellishing, the league needs to show how serious they take the problem. And one penalty, please. Just one penalty.
Nathan Eide - This one is easy, stop calling the hook/trip/interference. If there's a flop, it's not an offsetting penalty. If there's a dive, call the dive. If there's a trip, call the trip. If there's a trip then a dive, call the dive. Sure, it may result in trips and hooks going unpunished, but it doesn't negate the spirit of the game. Taking a dive goes against everything "The Code" stands for.
Speaking of the code, maybe that's the way to stop it. No instigator penalty for fighting a diver. Now that's interesting.
Derek Tanabe - I feel like I need to tread lightly here since this will be published on the website of a team that employs Dustin Brown. Essentially nothing that the league has thrown at the wall in an effort to fix this problem has had much of an effect, although I really think the rate of diving in hockey is a bit embellished in and of itself. Presumably, even though I don't entirely agree with the logic of it, the quickest fix here would be to institute what many fans have been clamoring for over the years and solely penalize the diving player rather than the one committing the simultaneous infraction. It makes the risks of diving significantly more costly and probably does more to shame the offending player than those official lists of divers the NHL supposedly has floating around.
Thomas Drance - If the league just suspended Dustin Brown for the rest of the season, they'd observe a roughly 30% reduction in diving league wide. If you add that to the 30% reduction in diving the league has experienced this season with Ryan Kesler on the shelf with a variety of injuries, you'd pretty much be in the clear!
Seriously though, I don't know how you get rid of diving besides adding in a supplementary discipline apparatus to govern it (like what they've done in the NBA this season). And even that wouldn't work. So long as there are power-plays, there will be diving and embellishment in my view. Moreover diving doesn't pose a safety risk to the players on the ice, and I think the issue is way overblown.
4. How would you implement the "coaching challenge"?
John Hoven - This one would be a little sticky. However, the NFL has managed to work through the issues and fine tune things over time. So, that should be the starting point. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Learn from the people who have the most experience with it. Talk with that league, explore and understand what they've done with it and why. Then, establish the guidelines on what calls and/or situations would warrant a challenge. For starters, each team should only be allowed one challenge per game. Stick your toe in the water and get some experience with it before going all in. Further, the penalty for when a coach is wrong should probably be more severe than a team losing their timeout. Perhaps a penalty should be awarded to the other team. Wait, is this 1993 all over again?
Bryan Reynolds - Coach's challenge is probably unavoidable within the next two or three seasons. It absolutely has to be done right, because a single goal review can take five minutes or more, leaving fans bored, and players cold. It sucks the life out of the game. That said, with the quality of reffing in the NHL clearly on the decline, it is likely going to be necessary. It will all come down to what is able to be challenged and what isn't. If it's me, I allow goals / non goals to be reviewed, along with penalties. Reviewing offsides, icing, hand pass, etc seems to be useless, as the play will already have stopped, and nothing can be changed if it is over ruled.
Give each coach one per period, not able to be carried over. If it is used in the last five minutes of a period, and it is unsuccessful, hit them with a delay of game penalty.
Derek Tanabe - To ensure it isn't something that's constantly abused, I think every coach should only be able to issue one challenge per game...but that they ought to be allowed to challenge just about any facet of an official's decision-making. Penalty calls, goaltender interference, offsides, icing touch-ups, you name it. If a head coach feels his team was wrongfully dinged, he should be able to force Toronto to go to the tape. And, of course, should lose his timeout if he's proven wrong.
Thomas Drance - I'd allow coaches to challenge goaltender interference and offsides on goals scored. The coaches get one challenge per game and if they get it wrong they lose their timeout. It's a good idea so long as you keep it simple.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a member of the Professional Hockey Writer's Association, his insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). Works for Engagementlabs. He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.