NHL Moves Into The Lab

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When things really bog down at work, you head into the lab and see what you can create to really juice things up for when big ideas are needed in even busier times.

The NHL is no different, and this is when the league really starts breaking out the beakers and centrifuges. In a metaphorical sense.

Next week, the NHL starts its Research and Development Camp, where they implement whatever little idea for a rule change they can think of, and then kids who will be drafted next June play it out to see the results. Last year's highlights included having the second referee perched above the ice between penalty boxes as if he were a gargoyle.

The usual ones get tried but never approved during this thing, like the no-touch icing (where the retrieving team doesn't actually have to race back and touch the puck for icing -- it's called as soon as the puck crosses the opposite goal line). Apparently this rule suffers from an overdose on logic, preventing horrifying injuries and all.

There are some goofy ideas this season, and a lot of them have to do with power plays. One thing being trotted out is that during a delayed call, the offending team must not only touch the puck to garner a whistle, but must get it out of its own zone as well. This would lead to more man-advantage time, as teams about to gain a power play always pull their goalie and send an extra attacker on. Still, a cluttered 6-on-5 advantage isn't all that big, as there are generally too many bodies in the way.

Getting to the more nuclear options, another being considered is the penalized team not being allowed to ice the puck on the kill. This would appear to be borderline homicidal, and exhausted players will now have to skate with their legs turned into jelly past the red line before getting the puck far enough for a change. This will lead to more tired players on the ice longer, leaving space for attacking players to exploit.

And the whole blow-it-up option is that all penalties must be served in their entirety. Meaning that you score on a minor penalty, you can keep going. This would seem to be overkill, but it gets into that whole logic thing.

Of course, a great majority of these changes are to goose goal numbers, which to me misses the point. People mistakenly think the number of goals relates to the level of action on the ice. It does not.

Power play goals flowed like arsonists through North London the first year out of the league, but the constant special teams play was pretty much garbage. What the NHL needs to do is find a way to create flow, action, back-and-forth, not necessarily goals - though it would lead to that. Widening the ice surface is probably out, but that's the kind of idea the NHL needs. Not cooking the books on the power play.

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