In the grand scheme of things, I think most people in the hockey world would agree that the post-lockout rule changes have benefited the style of play in significant ways. Sure, there’s still a concern that the neutral zone trap will rear its ugly head more often, but for the most part the sport is playing to its speedy, high-skill strengths.
That doesn’t mean that people are happy with every little tweak, though. The most obvious point of contention is the addition of the shootout,* but many find some of the league’s delay of game penalty procedures irksome as well.
We already discussed the much-reviled automatic delay of game penalty that a player (most times a defenseman) receives for sending the puck over the glass in his own zone, but there’s another unpopular application of the penalty that the 2011 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp actually did cover: the goalie trapezoid.
To refresh your memory, a goalie will receive a two-minute delay of game penalty if he handles the puck behind his net outside of a designated trapezoid-shaped area. The rule change seemed like a direct attack on the NHL’s most efficient puck-moving netminders (most notably Martin Brodeur) who developed their passing abilities to the point that they could make the dump-and-chase strategy far less successful.
It seems like a rather arbitrary way to try to open up offense and essentially penalize a rare skill, but those penalties have been rare and the effects have been difficult to measure. Former NHLer and current NHL exec Brendan Shanahan provided his own subjective account of the impact – or lack thereof – that would come from removing the unpopular trapezoid.
“We took out the trapezoid rule and yet the goalies still had no time to come out and play the puck,” Shanahan said Wednesday afternoon. “I think the idea of goaltenders coming out and having all day to set the puck up, tee it up are gone simply because of the lack of the defenseman’s ability to hold up the forecheckers now and clutch and grab through the neutral zone. So even though we said to the goalies go play the puck, they had no time.”
Shanahan was quick to point out that it was “just one test and it doesn’t mean it’s the end of that idea.” He also admitted that there may still be opportunities in the game that goalies could have the time to head into the corners and play the puck in order to start the attack going forward, but he firmly believes their opportunities would be few and far between in today’s game.
Then again, if the impact would be minimal, wouldn’t it be better to simply go the organic route by removing the trapezoid? Personally, I think that would be the best option, but it’s not a make-or-break situation considering the current style of play in the NHL.
* – Hatching plans to rid the world of the shootout seems pointless because it’s not going anywhere. That’s not to say I like the shootout, though. It justifies the worst instinct when it comes to competitiveness: the urge to play it safe. Coaches can ask their teams to sit back and just hope to make it through a five minute overtime period so they can try to win what is essentially a coin flip for an extra point. Shootouts are lame, but again, they’re going to be a part of the game for at least the short-term future so it’s best just to begrudgingly accept them like an irritating relative at Thanksgiving.