The NHL will debut a pretty cool bit of technology at this year’s Winter Classic. For the first time ever, every puck used in the game will be coated in a thermochromic substance that will change the puck’s graphics from purple to white as the puck thaws. That way the crew officiating the game will be able to easily identify which pucks are cold enough to shotgun during T.V. timeouts. Bumming tech off of Coors Light aside, this is a simple, cost-effective idea to make the gameplay as smooth as possible. A frozen puck bounces less and slides better than a room temperature puck. It’s the kind of subtle, yet helpful addition to the game which you don’t see much in NHL, or pro sports in general. This got me thinking, which is dangerous. What else could we tweak to make the game better.
Now I’m not talking about things like making the goals bigger (which is something I would consider if I was Hockey King) or making the rinks bigger. That will be a topic for another week. What I’m looking for are small changes to the equipment, the players, the rules, and the broadcasts that would make hockey better. Here it goes folks, let’s get (a little) nuts!
1) Home Teams Get To Wear Whatever The Hell They Want.
It’s simple really. My house, my rules. Winnipeg wants to wear white at home, you better bring your colors to Canada. Let some teams stand out a little. Personality is not a bad thing, guys! I’ll even take it a step further. If you make the playoffs, you can alternate between jerseys game to game. Got shutout at home wearing your color sweaters? Throw on the alternate for a change of mojo!
2) Have Officials Actually Explain Things During Games.
Sure, football might be over-saturated with reviews, but you know what? At least we know for sure what they are reviewing and why a play gets overturned! If you like Wes McCauley's dramatic “No Goal” announcements, you’ll love it when he tells you just how the goalie was interfered with. Right now, they only perform this service for the benches. Let us in on your Illuminati-level secrets, Toronto! Explain yourselves!!
3) Freeze Stick Technology For 5 years.
Look around at all the joy and wonder this sport brings. The Petterson dangles, the McKinnon snipes & the Crosby impossible angle shots, all have been enhanced by modern twigs, with their crazy flexibility and feather-light builds. They have completely remade the league in the skilled forward’s image. But there’s a dark side to this. The big guys use these sticks too. As much fun as it is to watch Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber fire rockets into an empty goal at an all-star game, it’s much less fun to see them hit some poor bastard and put him on the IR for half the season. Can you imagine an Al McCinnis cannon with one of these? Goalies are being asked to wear new padding which doesn’t fully protect parts of the body which really hurt when struck with vulcanized rubber. It’s time to take a step back and take an honest look at the diminishing returns of stick improvement before someone’s life changes forever.
4) Give Me All The Broadcast Graphics!!!
About once a period, NBCSN will post the shot totals for each team for exactly seven seconds. What if we did that… for the whole game? Hell, if it’s too complex to figure out on the score box, run a little crawler at the bottom of the screen with every meathead's favorite stats. Keep me updated on the scores around the league, let me know who the fantasy leaders are on a given night. I MUST know who has the most ice-time per night! All of this can be done without obstructing the on-ice play. Let’s add some new stuff too. Give me a radar gun. When Shea Webber does eventually decapitate someone with a slapper, I want to know how fast that bad boy was moving. Run two cameras above the rink from each catch net at the end to the scoreboard and give me that sweet NFL swivel camera. Give me utterly useless things, like the power play clock superimposed on the ice, just on the other side of the blue line, or track how long a tape to tape pass was that led to a sick breakaway. This is a good one, what if we put something in the puck that would help new fans track it, something that would give it a comet tail? Yeah, I’m sure everyone would love that. And don’t give this expense nonsense, NBC. If you can spend the cash on making the first ten yards of an NFL field extra green, my ideas would be a cinch.
5) Make Own Goals A Thing.
There doesn’t seem to be much shame in the NHL anymore. Sure, people can get undressed by a deke or nailed by a well-timed hit, but that’s more embarrassment, not true shame. When players screw up, when they truly earn the ire of the home fans, it should be recorded for all of time. I can think of few plays in hockey which bring the level of venom, dismay, and surrender as an own goal would. Look what it does for soccer! Entire seasons and tournaments can be laid to waste by one guy heading the ball in the wrong direction. Connor Murphy would have like 7 of these this year alone. Goalies can get them too, ala Cam Ward. Stop giving the closest offensive player free stats. Make dummies feel dumb and more importantly, give the fans from both teams someone to jeer.
Here are your Central Division Rankings:
1) Winnipeg Jets: (18-9-2)
The team keeps winning games it should be winning. Blowing out Philly 7-1 looks good but putting a hurting on upcoming cupcakes like Chicago & L.A. would make me feel better. Mark Scheifele has eight points in his last six games, and Connor Hellebuyck has looked sharp in his last two starts.
Upcoming Games: EDM, @CHI, TBL, @LAK
A Musing: I was rather harsh on Twitter about the Jets’ third jerseys when they came out. I regret that. The more they wear those blues, the more they grow on me. More teams should have faith in designers and not just rehash pure nostalgia. (Except the Ducks. Do the opposite and burn those abominations)
2) Colorado Avalanche: (17-8-5)
So that game against Tampa Bay that I really talked up sure did have some offense… for the Lightning. 7-1, Y.I.K.E.S. It should serve as a teachable moment for the team. You might be good, but you’re not great. Not yet.
Upcoming Games: @STL, DAL, NYI, MTL
A Musing: Wonder-Line Update: As of 12/11 MacKinnon, Rantanen & Landeskog have a combined 127 points, (45, 48, 34 respectively) 15 power play goals, and are averaging nearly 21 minutes a night on ice. Last week was a slow one, with only nine points between them.
3) Nashville Predators: (19-10-1)
The roster woes seem to have finally caught up with the Preds. Tough road loses to Vancouver and Calgary stopped some of their momentum. They’ll look to regain it with games against New Jersey Ottawa and Chicago.
Upcoming Games: VAN, NJ, @OTT, @CHI
A Musing: Over the past six games, Nashville has not allowed a team more than 30 shots on goal. They are 2-4 in that stretch. It’s quality, not quantity, folks.
4) Dallas Stars (16-11-3)
Could Dallas’ defense be… good? They’ve certainly looked like way so far in December, without John Klingberg & Marc Methot. The Stars currently sit third in the league in goals against & fifth in penalty kill percentage. Winning more than half of their faceoffs per game has also helped out a ton on the back end.
Upcoming Games: SJS, @VGK, @ANA
A Musing: Remember the days when the Stars had to win 6-2 or else they’d lose 4-3? Not anymore, my friends. Dallas has had twelve one goal games since November 1st. They’ve won seven and gotten at least one point in ten. Have the Stars gotten… Gritty?
5) Minnesota Wild (15-12-2)
Before their game against Montreal, the Wild had won only one of their past six games. Losses to Toronto and Calgary aren’t to be cried over but a 7-2 blowout in Edmonton, and a 4-3 home loss to Pacific cellar-dwellers Arizona might warrant a few tears.
Upcoming Games: FLA, CGY, SJS
A Musing: As I finalize this post, Minnesota is minutes away from a 7-1 drubbing Montreal. This team misses Miko Koivu, but Mikael stepped up big with three assists. He’ll need to play like this more consistently if the Wild are to get back to consistently winning.
6) St. Louis Blues: (10-14-4)
Man, this team is lucky the Chicago Blackhawks are in this division. When have they ever been able to say that before? They got a huge shutout win over Winnipeg where Jake Allen looked great before getting steamrolled by Vancouver, 6-1. Is it time to blow it all up? December’s remaining games look pretty tough.
Upcoming Games: COL, CGY, @EDM, VAN
A Musing: One of the best punches you’ll see all year was landed by Todd Bortuzzo on his own teammate in practice. At least they’re still fighting… even if they’re fighting each other.
*Blood-Curdling Scream* Chicago Blackhawks: (9-18-5)
I’m only going to share one pathetic stat with you this week. It took nearly eighteen minutes before the Blackhawks registered their first shot on goal against the Jets on Tuesday night. In that time, the Jets scored three times. At least it might get better next week?
Upcoming Losses: PIT, WPG, SJ, NSH @DAL
A Musing: Uh, probably not. Stan Bowman better hear the chains of Jacob Marley this Christmas Eve, and Marley better have a pink slip from the Ghost of Christmas Future with him.
There you have it, folks. Go enjoy some hockey.