For the record, Mike Babcock advocated for bigger nets when he was still coaching the Red Wings, so you can’t say his comments today were made out of frustration over his Maple Leafs’ scoring woes.
Babcock simply believes that the NHL has failed to adapt to the ever-growing size of netminders.
“It’s impossible to score,” said Babcock. “All you gotta do is a math equation. You go to 1980 when the puck went in the net. You got the average size of the goalies in the NHL and the average size of the net. You keep growing the net bigger, that would make the game the same. We change the game every year because we don’t want to change the game. The net’s too small for the size of the goalies. Period.”
Here’s some history:
In 1981-82, NHL teams scored 4.01 goals per game and the average save percentage was around .870. Wayne Gretzky led the league with 92 goals and 212 points. Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy with a .900 save percentage.
In 2014-15, it was 2.73 goals per game and a .915 average save percentage. Alex Ovechkin‘s 53 goals led the league; Jamie Benn‘s 87 points gave him the Art Ross Trophy; and Carey Price won the Vezina with a .936 save percentage.
Those are some stark contrasts, to say the least.
As for the size of today’s netminders compared to the past, well, it used to be you could pick out the goalie just by finding the shortest guy on the team. Now it’s practically the opposite. As 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop said in June, the days of the little, athletic goalie are pretty much over.
“I think you see taller guys that can be just as athletic as the smaller guys,” said Bishop. “It seems to be the way it’s trending here.”
And all along, the nets have stayed the same size.