Tag: neutral zone trap

Ken Hitchcock

GM Meetings: Red line rule doesn’t gain much traction


For all the talk about safety in the GM meetings, the worry was that there would be some over-correction that could accelerate the NHL’s return to the Dead Puck Era. Of course, the most obvious example is the discussion to bring the red line back – and therefore eliminate the two-line pass along with (perhaps) some of the grinding hits that come with dump-and-chase strategies that (supposedly) arise from the red line’s removal.

Neutral zone trap Chicken Littles can breathe easily, though, as Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika is among the reporters who passed along news that the move to remove the red line didn’t gain much traction.

I’ll just insert this excerpt from Cotsonika, which is basically acting as a text-based stress reliever:

Some GMs came to the meeting in favor of the idea, thinking the game had become too fast and too simple, with teams firing the puck through the neutral zone and simply tipping it into the offensive end. Their thinking is that re-instituting the red line would slow down the game or add skill through the neutral zone.

(Quick aside: I’m not saying that there’s NO skill involved with navigated the neutral zone, but I still laughed out loud at the notion that re-instituting the red line who be a good thing for skill players.)

But there wasn’t much support among the small group that discussed it, according to the Detroit Red Wings’ Ken Holland. The worry is that teams will start trapping in the neutral zone the way they used to or just find another way to adjust.

“I think pretty well everybody in our group agrees that they like it the way it us,” Holland said. “We can change the rules, but we’re going to have another set of circumstances five years from now and four years from now. That’s the problem.”

Don’t mind me, I’m just going to dance on the grave of that horrible, horrible idea.

More GM Meetings goodness:

Burke gets dirt in his face part one: No “bear hug” rule.

More Burke dirt: Puck-over-the-glass delay of game penalty seems here to stay.

Brendan Shanahan breaks the meetings down.

Hybrid icing gets a serious look.

NHL GMs ponder the return of the red line

Ken Hitchcock

As an unrepentant hockey nerd, few things bring me more joy than a gorgeous, tape-to-tape outlet pass.

For that reason, the scuttlebutt around the return of the red line – and the two-line pass rule that would come with it – scares me. That being said, there are more than a few general managers who believe that re-instituting the red line would help “control” a game that’s gotten faster and increasingly dangerous but not necessarily more skilled.

Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika provides an in-depth report on the debated issue, including Ken Hitchcock’s interesting argument for its return.

“If you want more puck possession in the game, you’ve got to bring the red line back in the game so there’s more control,” Hitchcock said. “It slows down a little bit. Second thing, the big hits on the defensemen, it comes from the middle of the ice. It doesn’t come from the walls. It comes from the middle of the ice.”

Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman understands the sentiment behind bringing back the red line, but advances a compelling counterargument: are we so certain that the removal of the red line is really the main culprit for an increase in injuries?

“In theory, I understand it,” Bowman said. “I don’t know in actuality. Is that why there’s been injuries? Because of the red line? Or is it more that there’s no obstruction? … I don’t know if there’s a correlation between the red line and injuries. … If you really broke it down, I’m not so sure that allowing the stretch pass is going to result in more concussions.”

source: Getty ImagesWhile one defense-leaning coach made an argument for the red line, Nashville Predators bench boss Barry Trotz articulates my worst fears about bringing back back the red line.

“I think actually it would hurt the game, putting the red line back in, to be honest, because of the fact that you could just back up and keep everybody in front of you,” Trotz said. “Now they can spread you out, and it allows the skill players a little bit more room.”

If the league really wants to limit injuries related in large part to unnecessary collisions, here’s my two-pronged suggestion that could take care of some of the concerns without allowing devious defensive coaches to get their trap-friendly red line back:

1. Remove the trapezoid: Why get rid of the red line when you can remove two other red lines that arbitrarily limit a marketable skill for puck-moving goalies? By allowing the Martin Brodeurs of the world more freedom to play the puck, defensemen wouldn’t have to subject themselves to as many collisions and yawn-inducing dump-and-chase strategies would be a little less effective.

2. Hybrid/no-touch icing: It’s funny that the NHL’s executives are pondering a rather drastic change yet they continuously ignore an alteration to a rule that places players in danger for marginal returns. How many ugly touch-up injuries need to happen before the league wises up? Is the chase for those pucks thrilling enough – and the success rate in attempting to retrieve those loose pucks high enough – for them to be worth the risks?


So how do you feel about these ideas? What rule changes and/or tweaksshould be considered – if any? Debate away in the comments.

Rangers beat Devils at their old game 2-0

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers

Sure, there are games (and even teams) that often remind us of darker, duller times known as the “Dead Puck Era,” but the NHL is obviously in a better place now.

Still, there are some games that come along and practically beat us over the head with those not-so-pleasant memories. The New York Rangers drowned the New Jersey Devils 2-0 tonight in a contest that was “uneventful” enough that Henrik Lundqvist spent most of his post-game interview discussing how “odd” it was:

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Well, that’s a little unsettling. Still, it wasn’t all doom and trap-happy gloom. Check out the highlights of that game for another look at Lundqvist’s bedeviling save on Ilya Kovalchuk:

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With this win, the Rangers are now nine points ahead of the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins for first overall in the East while they’re easily in the Presidents Trophy race since they trail the Vancouver Canucks by a point but hold two games in hand.

Meanwhile, the Devils are tied with the Ottawa Senators with 74 points, although the Devils hold the sixth spot since they’ve played in two fewer games and have more wins.

Both teams look like contenders, but hopefully future meetings will be a bit more, um, inspiring.

Why you shouldn’t always root for NHL underdogs


After watching the league-leading Minnesota Wild fire a measly two shots against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first period, I couldn’t help but think a sad thought. If you like exciting hockey, then more often than not, you should root against the underdogs.

It might not be a leap to say that cheering for the “little guy” is downright natural for sports fans. It’s why Rocky needed an increasingly ridiculous set of villains to off-set Sylvester Stallone’s increasing mass.

In a sport like basketball, it’s downright exhilarating to root for many dogs, especially when those teams commit to a full-court press or fast-break offense. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about the modern game of hockey, less talented teams usually institute the spiritual opposite of those techniques – whether it’s a true “trap” or just passive play. (Sorry, Mike Yeo.)

The 1994-95 New Jersey Devils didn’t invent the neutral-zone trap, but their shocking upset of the Detroit Red Wings certainly popularized its usage. Only the staunchest supporters of quicksand defense will argue that the Dead Puck Era was a good thing for the league, but the bottom line is that these defense-first (second and last) strategies help lower budget teams keep pace with exciting, usually expensive ones.

Soul-crushing strategies aren’t scary just because they’re boring. They’re scary because they work.

I don’t mean to single the Wild out – their offense is showing some pulse in the second period. Still, if you don’t have a horse in this race and just want exciting hockey, then you should pull for the Blackhawks blueprint. In other words, as wrong as it feels, you should root against the tortoise and for the hare.

Minnesota welcomes back an old friend: The neutral zone trap

MIke Yeo

When you bring up the neutral zone trap to fans anywhere across the NHL, they immediately start having flashbacks to the days in the mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s that saw the New Jersey Devils, among others, gain great success from employing the defense-first style of play.

One team that saw the trap more often than not was the Minnesota Wild. The Wild under coach Jacques Lemaire saw their greatest success with Lemaire in charge and slowing things down in the Western Conference. As things go with the hardcore neutral zone trap, the fans got bored of things and were eager for a change to add some excitement to their hockey-loving lives.

When Todd Richards replaced Lemaire, the trap was altered for the most part but the wins evaporated as well. Now with Mike Yeo in charge in St. Paul, the Wild are hoping to mix in the defensive strength and excitement of scoring goals and he’s going to do it by tweaking the trap. Michael Russo of The Star Tribune breaks the flashback-inducing news from Wild camp.

In the irony of all ironies, it’s Lemaire’s latest version of the aggressive neutral-zone forecheck that Yeo will deploy as the Wild coach and the one he unveiled during his exhibition debut behind the Wild’s bench Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

“Now when I say trap, you’re not going to see a team where five guys are just backing up,” Yeo said. “Like, look at our team last year in Houston. I mean, how many people would say we were a boring team to watch? We trapped in the neutral zone, but we were aggressive in how we did it.”

And before you start freaking out, let’s be clear: The Wild is not returning to the trap. The Wild never stopped trapping.

The facts are simple. While fans bug out about the trap, the trap is employed by every team in the league in some way, shape, or form. The Bruins and Canucks both played variations of it to great, Stanley Cup finals-reaching success. For Wild fans, they’re still scarred from Lemaire’s days of success and boredom and they think that when a coach readily admits he’ll be breaking it out again it’ll be a return to what happened before.

Fortunately for Wild fans and NHL fans all over, teams can’t bog things down the same way as they used to. Obstruction is now a cardinal sin and power plays are too dangerous to hand out like candy. Trying to bog things down like you used to is seen as playing things too safe and in the current NHL, safe is death.

Sure Wild fans are going to be a bit bothered to hear about an old friend like the trap coming back, but with offensive weapons like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in place as well as a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the always steady Mikko Koivu, that defense can turn into offense really fast.

Of course, if things go south expect to see fingers get pointed often at the trap.