Thursday, 10 November 2011

Peter Laviolette is not a Trappist monk

Regarding the Tampa-Philadelphia game last night and the Flyers’ decision to not fly into the trap, I think it’s the natural devolution of the game and the logical conclusion to a sport that favours coaching and defence over creativity and spectacle. The NBA has the shot clock and the three-point line to open up its dull, stupid game. The NFL has opened up the fan-friendly passing game by restricting defensive backs in what they can do to receivers, and by allowing offensive linemen to extend their arms while blocking, as well as by enacting rules to protect the quarterbacks, the real stars of the game which the fans pay to see, from the defensive linemen and linebackers, who now need to accept they are supporting cast members.

Meanwhile the NHL is mired in an archaic embrace of what the game was in the Fifties.

“You must keep your head up”, no matter what the mounting medical evidence shows.

“You have to ‘pay the price’ (Daniel Sedin)”.

“The center has to (hook, grab, trip, obstruct) pick up his man!”

Hockey should be the most exciting sport to watch. The NHL cling to its ‘truculence’ faction by barring the door and beseeching them not to leave, whereas ten times as many potential fans are outside locked out yet clamoring to be let in.

The NHL can move decisively to prevent the trap. Moreover, it should do so quickly, over the summer. Brighter minds than mine can come up with ways to do so, but here are two suggestions to fire up the debate.

1) Forwards are not allowed to be standing still or skating backwards in the neutral zone when their team doesn’t have the puck,


2) Get rid of offsides. The blue line rules may have been necessary at one time, but with the modern pace of the game they stifle the flow. Two-line and three-line passes are fair game. Stack up in the neutral zone if you want, but we’ll send Cammalleri behind you to haul in a long bomb from our defencemen. The only caveat, or Tweak™, is that when your team doesn’t have puck possession, you cannot have a player behind the other team’s last defenceman for any reasonable amount of time. We could call it the anti-loitering or anti-loafing rule, or the Alex Mogilny or Pierre Larouche rule.

This would also help the team in the offensive zone, which could respond to forecheck pressure by having its defencemen ease back and then passing to a teammate who is open in the space the defenders have vacated. As it is, the blue line is a huge advantage to penalty killers and favours the defence-minded, trapping, thuggish team over the offensive, skilled, creative team. Let’s do away with it.

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