Prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, the NHL shortened the maximum length of goaltender pads, which itself is determined by the height of the netminder, in the hopes that it would lead to increased scoring. However, goaltenders’ save percentage rose to .915 this season, which is the highest it’s been since the statistic was first tracked in 1983-84.
With that in mind further changes are being considered, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. While keeping the goaltenders protected remains the priority, they want to fight against gear that’s primarily about blocking shots.
Among the possible alterations would be to make goaltenders wear tapered jerseys to prevent them from being able to obscure oversized equipment.
There might also be changes coming for other players as well. NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider reportedly suggested a ban on certain types of blocked shots. Per Friedman:
Without his commentary, it’s difficult to know exactly what he proposed, but in 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey recommended banning full-body sliding while in the defending zone.
I’ve spoken to players about this before, and they make a good point. You’re going to have to legislate it out, because many are told that if they don’t block shots, they won’t play.
The emphasis on blocking shots has been a matter of some debate from a tactical standpoint for a while. Obviously a shot that doesn’t even reach the goaltender isn’t going in the net, but players that block shots are also putting themselves at risk of injury. Former coach John Tortorella, who was a big advocate for even top-end skilled players blocking shots, was often scrutinized for his emphasis on the tactic.
As Pat Quinn noted, “I talked to (team doctor) Mike Bernstein and he said the injuries are terrible. He said so many of them are coming from the blocked shots and they’re fractures, and they’re not easily healed.”
There’s no question that blocking shots is a big part of how the game is currently played and really it’s a question of degrees not absolutes. Perhaps putting in rules to reduce certain types of blocks though would lead to fewer injuries and more goals.
If any of these potential changes happen at all, it likely won’t be until the 2016-17 campaign at the earliest.