NHL goalies will have to switch to more 'form-fitting' equipment in 2010-11 season

bigpadsgiguere.jpgWhen you look back at classic sports clips, every league looks a little different. Basketball players wore hilariously short shorts. NFL players went from insanely skimpy helmets to ones that are almost like today’s standard. Baseball players … well, let’s just say many of them were a lot, um, smaller.

For hockey, the most glaring difference* is the way goalies of bygone eras looked (and therefore played) compared to the bulked up versions of today. I’ll never forget how much it blew my mind to see how dramatically skinny Dominik Hasek looked when he was wearing the typical couch cushion leg pads and other various “protective” garments. Simply put, goalies wouldn’t feel safe to play butterfly styles if they sported the limited equipment of the old days, but there’s no doubt that they’d also take up a lot less of the net too. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument of protection vs. goal prevention that will probably restrict a full-blown change from taking effect.

That being said, Rory Boylen of The Hockey News points out that the NHL is moving to a “form-fitting” restriction for goalie pads.

The NHL 2009-10 rulebook reads that there is a 38-inch height restriction on all goalie pads. However, the form-fitting direction the NHL is moving to next season means each goalie will have his own pad dimensions, i.e., smaller goalies will have smaller pads.

Of course, some have pointed out this will negatively impact the smaller goalies much more than the bigger ones. Whereas they could wear the same sized equipment last year, next year padding will be in proportion to the goalie’s size.

Will the goalies of today ever look like the lightly protected goalies of yesteryear? Of course not. Just as it would be insane to make goalies remove their masks, it would be just as crazy to pare down equipment to that extreme. After all, padding is there to protect. It’s a natural evolution of equipment that spun out of control for goalies and became more about stopping pucks than protection. So now the NHL is finding a middle ground and reeling it back in. We’ve already seen rules put in place against the cheater pads on the glove and in the five-hole.

George Malik actually brought this story to my attention in this article, in which he explains how the rule change will affect the Detroit Red Wings goalies. What might be most interesting from a “micro” prospective is that even larger goalies will be impacted.

I talked to Thomas McCollum during the Red Wings’ prospect camp about his gear, and he said he’d lose 3/4″ off his thigh rise–and McCollum stands at 6’2″ and at least 200 lbs–so you can fully expect that everyone from Jimmy Howard to Chris Osgood will wear leg pads with shorter thigh rises, smaller chest/arm protectors, and tighter-fitting goalie pants. McCollum told me that he actually planned on wearing his now-illegal gear at the AHL level, and would only wear the legal stuff if he was called up.

The rule won’t affect Jimmy Howard too much, but Chris Osgood won’t be able to wear 38″ leg pads anymore, no way, no how.

Interesting stuff. As I’ve mentioned before, NHL general managers have been drafting Chara-esque goalies in recent years, even if the Devan Dubnyks of the world haven’t exactly lit the world on fire. In an article about that draft trend, Gary Joyce pointed out that some are trying to stay ahead of rule changes, particularly the seemingly far fetched possibility of the league enlarging the net. (My guess is that the league won’t ever have to alter the game in such a drastic way unless referees stop blowing their whistles on obstruction again.)

Later today, I’ll take a brisk look at which goalies might be hurt the most by such an equipment change. I apologize in advance to short people everywhere. There might be some new Napoleon complexes introduced to the hockey world on this seemingly innocuous Saturday in August.

* Aside from players not wearing helmets, maybe. I get a particular charge out of seeing the holdouts of the helmet-free era skating with guys who wore full protection. Macho behavior can reach some insane depths, can’t it?

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    Goalie nods: Dell starts for Sharks, his sixth in the last 12 games

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    There was a plan in San Jose to try and give first-year backup Aaron Dell some additional playing time down the stretch.

    And the Sharks certainly are executing.

    Dell, who has basically split starts with No. 1 Martin Jones this month, will get the call tonight when San Jose takes on the Stars in Dallas. He’s certainly earned the call — in five starts in March, he’s going 3-2-0 with a .941 save percentage, and has allowed a grand total of eight goals.

    While there’s no goalie controversy at play — Jones is the unquestioned starter — this development has to have provided some relief for Peter DeBoer and company. Dell is a 27-year-old minor league journeyman that made his NHL debut this year, but played sparingly behind Jones for the most part.

    Now, he looks like a guy the club can rely on should Jones struggle, or get hurt. Dell’s posted terrific numbers overall — 10-5-1 record, .936 save percentage, 1.85 GAA — and could see even more action over the final eight games of the regular season.

    No word yet on who starts for Dallas. Kari Lehtonen played in last night’s shootout loss to Chicago, so logic would suggest it’s Antti Niemi.

    Elsewhere…

    — As we wrote about earlier, Jaroslav Halak makes his first NHL start in 85 days as the Isles visit Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury is in for the Pens.

    Petr Mrazek gets the call as the Red Wings host the Lightning. No word yet on a Bolts starter, though Andrei Vasilevskiy would seem likely given Peter Budaj played against (and beat) Boston last night.

    — The red-hot Jonathan Bernier gets another start as the Ducks play host to the Jets. No word yet on a Winnipeg starter, but Connor Hellebuyck did play last night against L.A.

    Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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    — Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

    — Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

    — The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

    — Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

    — Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

    — Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

    Enjoy the games!

    PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

    In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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    George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

    This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

    “I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

    Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

    The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

    McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

    “I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

    “They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

    At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

    WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

    McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

    He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

    “We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

    B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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    Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

    Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

    Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

    Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.