Read an interesting article yesterday, posted by Ken Campbell of ‘The Hockey News’. It talked about how the league ‘teased’ us with increased scoring for the first part of the season, but how things have come crashing back down to earth.
When the season started, we were indeed treated to an explosion of offensive output the league hasn’t seen in years. Rookie Auston Matthews scored four goals in his first ever game was actually wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg of what was to come.
The Columbus Blue Jackets put up ten goals on the Montreal Canadiens, a few other teams have come up one point shy of matching that.
But since then, things have calmed down to a point where we are looking at another record-setting year for goal scoring deficiency.
The next step in this conversation would be on how exactly we can get more scoring in the game and, more importantly, get it to stay there. Increasing the size of the nets, four-on-four play, and decreasing goalie pad sizes have all been something that has been discussed before, but will any of those actually help?
Surprisingly, no it won’t, not even actually calling the penalties that they are supposed to be calling is going to help, and here is why.
Coaches are judged by their wins and losses. That’s not a shocker. You win a lot, you are going to stick around a lot longer than a coach who doesn’t.
So if the job, in it’s simplest form, is to win hockey games, what is the easiest way to go about that?
To stop the other team from scoring.
You don’t go into a game where you are going to be matched up against Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin and say ‘hey, here is the game plan, let’s go out there and outscore these guys’. No, you are going to watch film, practice, and plan to stop them from scoring.
That’s why no rule change is going to be enough to help increase goal scoring and keep it at a pace that we all hope it is going to be.
Once teams made a deliberate effort to stop allowing Wayne Gretzky and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers from skating up and down the ice on them, that’s when things started to take the turn this way.
One thing led to another, and that’s when the ‘Neutral Zone Trap’ was introduced. Once that succeed, it became about finding a way to adopt that philosophy and use it in your own way.
The league can tinker with the game all they want (by the looks of it, they don’t), but in the end, it will always be a quick fix. Teams can, and will, adjust to anything you throw out at them, and the easiest way to do that is to prevent the puck from going into the net.