A hot topic, for some time now, has been how to increase scoring in the National Hockey League. The decline in scoring is something that can be charted over recent years. This season, however, it is even more at the forefront as the league is on pace for its lowest scoring output since 2003-04.
Goalies these days are bigger and more athletic, third and fourth lines are better, teams are deeper and fewer penalties are called.
Partially in an effort to up the lighting-of-the-lamp frequency, the NHL has decided to focus on the goalie factor, likely making adjustments to their equipment heading into the 2016-17 season. The NHL aims for goalies across the league to be tailor-fitted with new chest protectors and pants in time for next season.
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This initiative was delivered at the annual GM meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. Led by NHL equipment inspector Kay Whitmore, the movement would be akin to tailoring a suit. The equipment must be approved by the Competition Committee and Board of Governors.
It’s not only about increasing scoring. Some NHL netminders actually helped lead the charge for change, and it’s not like change to equipment is new. These alterations could potentially level the playing field amongst goaltenders, allowing the cream to rise to the top.
More unity on the topic drew the agreement of the general managers.
"I'm not going to lie, there was a lot of skepticism in the room by the managers because it has been 'Groundhog Day' on this topic," Whitmore told NHL.com. "The question was asked today, 'Well, what's different this time around?' Well, we are attacking it together."
Oilers netminder Cam Talbot has seen these alterations before and has had to adjust his game each time. His biggest personal adjustment came with the size of the glove.
“Some pucks would just end up hitting you, not catching them but just go off the glove and miss the net and go wide,” said Talbot. “(Now), if you don’t catch it in the pocket, there’s not much surface area around it to make that save and I hear they’re making the gloves even smaller. Really going to focus on our hand-eye over the summer and make sure we’re ready for that.”
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It is expected the new equipment will be available this summer so that goalies have that adjustment period. We could potentially see the more tailored equipment make its debut at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
“The designs change yearly, but the sizing of it seems to be going down every few years now and every time they do it, we seem to adapt,” said Talbot. “It takes a little bit to just get used to those changes, but hopefully when they make the new changes it will give us enough time this summer to get used to that gear and be ready for next year.”
Although the proposed tailoring isn’t all about scoring, it will possibly have positive effects on that statistic. When it comes to how to increase scoring, Talbot would rather the adjustments pertain to his equipment than the game itself.
“Given some of the options like changing the size of the net and stuff like that, I think that kind of changes the game a little too much,” he said. “I think if they’re going to change anything, it probably should be the goaltending equipment. Just, hopefully, they don’t make it too small where we start getting hurt.”
Talbot hasn’t dove too deep into the new equipment rules yet, although he got measured for it on Tuesday. The Oilers number one goalie has enjoyed his share of successes in year one with the club and, regardless of adjusting to newly tailored equipment, hopes to continue to build off them for 2016-17.