Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Goalie

Gary Bettman held his "State of the League" address before Game One of the Cup Finals today and while addressing the fact that all the teams will play each other at least once, the topic of goaltender's equipment came up again. Bettman citing that goals are down and that goaltenders are better physically and in their equipment, that there needs to be a way to get more room for the shooters to shoot. This comes weeks after the league and PA announced they would be forming a group to find a way to deal with goalie equipment issues.

This has been a debate that has been going on since the new rules came into effect after the work stoppage. The game was opened up, for sure, but it always seemed that the league and the people in charge of rule changes have it out for goalies. It's an odd statement to say that because goalies are being better that they need to be punished and have equipment taken away from them. It's almost like saying that guys like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jarome Iginla need to use wood sticks because they are much too good for composite and that Dion Phaneuf and Shea Weber can only stick check because they hit too hard.

The problem I have is that the NHL brass isn't embracing the goaltenders for their stellar work. Not only do they have to be physically sharp, but mentality as well. The fact they have been subjected to these changes and still are as good as they are-- it's a testament to how far goaltending has come in the last two decades. To be honest, if a young Wayne Gretzky had to play against goalies of today back then-- odds are he wouldn't have scored 92 goals and 215 points like he did in the early 80s.

I think the time has come to embrace the idea of bigger nets. It needs to happen. It HAS to happen. For the sanity of goalies and fans out there-- bigger nets need to be a god-send and needs to be the saving grace. My reasoning is on how far these decrease in pads will end up being. Will we soon see that goalies wearing editions of the local papers on their legs, like so much Greg Goldberg in the "Mighty Ducks??" Sure, it would bring up advertising dollars for papers to bid to have their goalie wear their paper, but it's joke in the long run of things.

Bigger nets will stop the insanity of the shrinking the size of goalie pads, while also give Bettman what he wants, which is to give shooters more to shoot at. That is, until goalies adapt to that, to which there will be a scurry to figure out how to adjust the game more to give the shooter even more to shoot at.

Adaptation is the reason for the goalies getting better. It has been the case ever since the beginning of the sport. From wearing proper padding to freezing the puck to the mask to the butterfly position; goalies have been able to adjust themselves to the game around them and become better players. Sure, people love scoring and it's what gets fans out of their seats (aside from fighting); but why can't people realize that a great goaltending performance could outweigh scoring in a single game.

Plus, the protection issue comes up as well. Hockey sticks are becoming lighter and the velocity coming off the sticks are becoming higher and higher. The goalies need all the padding they need to help protect their bodies from these weapons the stick companies are coming out with today. Sure, the one-piece composites may break like a wet snowball, but when they stay together, they are deadly both in accuracy and velocity. Taking padding away is taking away absorption of the blow from guys who are facing upwards of 100mph shots on a regular basis throughout the game.

The thought of bringing back the firewagon hockey style of the old days is an intriguing one and one that many older fans may enjoy-- but in the grand scheme of things; it probably won't be as good as some thought it would be. All it would do is allow teams to adapt (there's that word again) to a more defensive style of hockey and we're right back to where we were before the lockout with clutching and grabbing being the norm and posing as defensive hockey.

Note to Gary Bettman and those in charge of rule changes-- bigger nets. It's the thing that'll allow goalies to keep their padding for protection, as well as give the league the bigger shooting area for the offense to shoot at. It's the only sane thing to keep the sanctity of the game in tact....until scoring is down again and we put in the "Doubler" puck like MTV's Rock n' Jock.


Jed said...

Assuming for a minute that we do actually need more goals in the NHL - which I disagree with - I think making the nets bigger would be too big of a change. I like the idea of limiting the size of goalie equipment. It doesn't have to be to the extent that you're suggesting, but some of the goalies today are out of control in the size of their pads and especially their gloves. When you have players that are as skilled as some of the shooters in the league today, just giving them that extra little bit of light can make all the difference.

The other thing that you are overlooking is the fact that there has been such a huge increase in blocked shots (which some of the NHL home ice guys attribute to the change in angles from moving the goal and blue lines). I wonder if we moved the lines back, or just gave the players time to adjust, we might see an increase in SOG and goals. I think that this league needs to calm down with the rule changes and give the players a chance to catch up.

As Mike Vogel from the Caps likes to say "The NHL has a long history of trying to fix things that aren't broken." The game is plenty exciting right now.

Jed said...

PS I seriously doubt that the league would decrease the size of goalie pads to the extent that they would risk their players' health. The size of todays pads is just out of control and I think goalies are abusing the lack of restrictions to make their lives easier...