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Sink or Swim? NHL experiments with new rules at R&D camp

Posted By Philippe Lemire On Sep 3 2010 @ 4:51 pm In NHL | No Comments

During the summer season the NHL decided to pick some of next years draft-eligible players and use them as, well, lab rats for 2 days.

The research and development camp was held in Toronto and for a duration of two days new rules, ranging from genius to outta-whack, were tested while the draftees tried to strut their stuff in front of general managers and scouts alike. This guaranteed that the players would give it their all so the rules could be tested in a real-game setting. Some of the proposed rules will make you think ” Hey, that could actually be cool”, while others will seem just downright wrong and weird when you think about it. For instance, take a look at the photo below:

Pretty odd, huh? The face-off circle in the middle was tested to see if it would generate more offensive chances. Rather than running the traditional “center wins the face-off back to the defenseman closest to the boards who then passes it to the opposite defenseman for a shot on net” play, teams now had a whole plethora of possibilities off the draw. They could either shuffle the play to the left or the right, leaving the defensive team guessing at all times. In my opinion, this wouldn’t be that bad of an idea. Other than looking really stupid esthetically for any hockey fan, I find this gives coaches the opportunity to think of brand-new plays for clutch situations. If this new face-off location does get implemented, the NHL should look into making the defensive team line-up first without having the option to modify their set-up once they’re in place. Similar to home-ice advantage for line-changes, this rule would give the offensive team a chance to set themselves up advantageously.

Take another look at the picture, notice the second set of horizontal lines for the center to set-up on? This is one of the many face-off variations tested during the R&D camp. If either of the centers committed a fault during the draw, they had to move their feet back to the second line and re-take the face-off. The NHL also tested making the players line-up inside both lines for the draw. Furthermore, a “pick-your-own-opponent” type of penalty was tested for face-off violations. Not only was the center kicked out of the circle for screwing up, the opposing team got to pick his replacement. Pretty neat idea in my opinion. Can you imagine Sean Avery having to take a face-off against Crosby? Again, these rules generated more offensive chances off the draw, a well needed addition if you ask me.

There are 2 remaining new elements on the picture; the blue-line and what seems to be a line changing zone. They made the blue line larger, expanding it from a foot to 2 feet. I can really only see this being a good idea for a Powerplay situation, where the defensemen would have a bit more room to maneuver on the point. This should also make offside calls a lot easier for referees. As for that blue-ish semi-circle by the bench area, I really have no idea what that is. If it’s something the NHL tested in order to make too many men calls easier, I don’t see how this would work. Would a player be safe if the puck touches him while he’s in that area? We’ll have to wait and see.

This of course was only a small fraction of all the new things the league decided to try out. I probably read a minimum of 15 proposed ideas but this is supposed to be an article, not a research project. What do you guys think of all this? Has the league already changed the game enough with the trapezoid behind the net, the removal of the red line and the shootout? Or are changes like these welcome as long as they bring the excitement level for the fans watching the game to a whole new level we’ve never experienced before?

If you’d like to view a bunch of the new rules tried out for yourselves, you can find a bunch of videos on NHL.com

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