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New Rules Make For New NHL

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
August 2, 2005

 (TORONTO) -- With the dawn of the new NHL upon us, the details of the new CBA have taken a backseat to all the draft and free agent excitement, but the biggest impact might have been made when the NHL and NHLPA wrote the few rule changes along with the new collective bargaining agreement.

Right about now, goaltenders must feel like the hardest done by as we enter into this new NHL. But it's hard to imagine they're going to be any less brilliant than they've been over the past decade.

Rule changes involving the keepers seem restrictive at first blush, but in all likelihood will not diminish their skill set in the least.
  • The slimming of their gear is good for the esthetics of the game and could make them more acrobatic as well
  • Limiting where they can play the puck behind the goal line is also a non-issue. Most good puck-handling netminders can get to a puck in front of the goal line and clear it up ice, and they'll still be able to set it up behind the goal for their defencemen. In fact, this rule limits them from going into the danger-zone, which is to say the corners, where goalies often cough up the puck and give opposing teams a prime scoring chance.
  • Penalizing them for freezing the puck unnecessarily is a move that should have been implemented long ago and will improve the flow of the game. (Hey, it might even lead to more scoring chances, and given that these athletes are so good, it could help them improve their save percentage!)
Mikka Kiprusoff led the NHL in 2003-04 with a 1.69 goals against average. It says here the best number this year will be between 2.10 and 2.30. Given that Patrick Roy's career average was 2.54, Johnny Bower's was 2.51, and Martin Brodeur's is 2.17, today's top stoppers should be able to live with numbers in that range.

Other highlights of this CBA that should become more popular over time:

Having officials work in "teams"over the course of a season. How many times have we witnessed the two-referee system breakdown because the two with the orange-bands just don't seem to be on the same page? This step should allow officials to develop a nice chemistry over an 82-game season, and here's hoping they can carry it over into the playoffs.

More games within your own division/conference. The time had come to make it more like baseball and football where a team should really only concern itself with its immediate group. Eight games each versus four divisional opponents (for a total of 32) plus four games each versus the rest of the conference (for a total of 40) means that the bulk of the schedule is filled with what we used to call four-point games. (Has anyone come up with a good way to describe these games now that points are available for an overtime loss?) Animosity will be even greater, and the stakes even higher thanks to this rivalry-based schedule.

No more Joe Murphy's and Sergei Fedorov's. Well, Sergei is still playing but neither he nor anyone else will be able to withhold his services well into the season anymore.

This deal says that restricted free agents who do not sign by December 1 will be ineligible to play for the balance of the season. It's about time.

Too bad the deadline wasn't November 1 because nothing distracts a team and its fan base more than a "me" player looking for more cash while the rest of the club tries to keep its head above water, essentially playing shorthanded.

Eliminating the nonsense. For some reason hockey players can't tolerate losing by more than a goal, and if they are, they feel that a "message" must be sent before the night is done. Good to see that a step has been taken to curb the late game shenanigans by suspending a player one game if he instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game.

The suspension doubles for each additional incident, as would the coach's fine, which starts at $10,000 for a first time offence. Again, it's too bad the league didn't set the bar a little further back, say, with 10 minutes to go in the third.

And if you're a fan of watching Pat Quinn in his post-game address to the media, (available on Leafs TV of course) this year sessions will be must-see TV to see if the coach can in fact bite his lip. The league wants no part of public complaints or derogatory comments toward the game, and will levy big-time fines when it sees fit.

As passionate as Quinn is, it may be hard for the big Irishman to avoid letting his true feelings be known some nights. He could well end up with a swollen lip or an empty wallet. Either way, you'll want to be watching.

This new CBA isn't perfect, but it does have a chance to serve both the players and the owners well. And hopefully, the games' diehard fans as well.
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