The NHL has made a few changes in recent years in an attempt to make the game more exciting for casual fans. I have already written about the three-on-three overtime and how much I’ve been in favor of it because it limits the number of games that go to shootouts — essentially a skills competition with no semblance of actual game skill. However, I draw the line with the suggestion of making the nets bigger and the goalie pads smaller.
I understand that, for some people, a 1-0 game isn’t the most exciting to watch. However, those games are sometimes even more exciting than a 6-5 contest. There’s nothing wrong with two defensive teams being physical, aggressive, blocking shots and having two goalies standing on their heads making incredible saves in a one-goal contest. That, to me, is even more exciting than watching a shootout where defenses are essentially Swiss cheese and goalies might as well not even be in the net.
The NHL would be foolish to make the nets bigger. I know that Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, one of the best goalies in NHL history, is in favor of expanding the size of the nets, but I do not think it is necessary. Take a look at some of the scores from this past weekend’s games in the NHL. The Avalanche defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-1, the Florida Panthers topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in a shootout, the Columbus Blue Jackets put up a five spot on the Arizona Coyotes and the Nashville Predators shut out the Winnipeg Jets 7-0. All of these games were played with the nets the same size as they’ve been for years, and there were still at least six goals scored in all four contests. While this is not the norm in the league, five-goal games do happen each week, sometimes even each night, in the NHL. Expanding the goals would most likely create an increase in the amount of goals scored, but it is not necessary.
It’s not like each team in the league has a Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price or Pekka Rinne between the pipes either. There are net minders who already give up over three goals a game and cannot compete with the top goalies in the NHL. Making the nets bigger would only push these goalies further away from those at the top of the league and, if anything, make the NHL as a whole less competitive.
If the league has to change something, I would say making the pads smaller would not be the worst thing in the world. The NHL dropped the percentage of distance between the center of a goalie’s knee and his pelvis for his leg pads from 55 percent to 45 percent in the 2013-14 season, and there have been more goals through the five hole as a result. I do not know how much smaller they can make the pads, but it would be a better compromise than expanding the net. If it were me, however, I would not change either. Leave the game the way it is; goals will come, and if casual fans really want to get into hockey they will come to appreciate close, low scoring games.