Which rule change will have the biggest impact on the game?
This is a two part look at the three rule changes approved by the NHL Board of Governors that will go into effect in the 2015-16 season.
The new faceoff rule says the team defending will have to put their stick on the ice first in all instances. In the past, the rule was that the visiting team had to put their stick on the ice first on all faceoffs. That gave a significant advantage to the home team. What determines who the defending team is? It’s all about the center line. If the faceoff is anywhere on your defensive zone side of the ice, you’re the defending team. (The player closest to his own goalie would have to declare first.) The only place where the new rule won’t apply, is at center ice. At center ice, the visiting team must put their stick on the ice first.
The aim of implementing a faceoff change is to create a better opportunity for increased puck-possession time, which could lead to more goals. Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis proposed the change. Francis was known as one of hockey's best faceoff men during his Hall of Fame playing career.
3 on 3 Overtime
In an attempt to minimize the impact of the shootout, overtime will now be a 3 on 3 format. Many have felt the shootout is nothing more than a skills side-show and that too many games were being decided based on gimmicky stunts. Others love the shootout and relish the one on one showcase.
The shootout was born at the beginning of the 2005-06 season (coming out of the lockout) to eliminate ties. It enjoyed considerable popularity until many began to see it as an individual skills competition and not reflective of the hard-fought game that was just played.
The AHL has had success in wrapping up games without the shootout. By going with a hybrid seven-minute overtime that went from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 after three minutes, the AHL last year saw a nearly 40 percent jump in games that were decided in OT. Out of 136 AHL games that ended regulation in a tie, only 35 were decided by shootout.
While the old 4-on-4 format may be gone, we won’t be seeing any 3-on-2 power plays. No team will ever be allowed to have less than 3 skaters on the ice at any time. In the case of a penalty, it moves to a 4-on-3 situation. A second penalty would make it 5-on-3, and any further penalties would be shelved until one expired, as is the case in regulation.
The only other little twist in the new format regards the pulling of a goalie. If a team pulls it’s goalie at any point during the overtime period, other than for a delayed penalty, they will be at risk of losing the 1 point in the standings they earned when regulation ended. If the opposing team should score into the empty net, you don’t just lose the game, you also lose that single point. Of course if you pull the goalie and score, you gain the second point, and everything is just fine.
I’m really excited to see OT go to 3-on-3. That’s going to blow the ice wide open and keep the goalies on their toes. The part I really like about the new format is that instead of subtracting a player in the event of a penalty, the team that was fouled gains a player. No sitting in the box and feeling shame. Now, you stay on the ice and pay for your mistake by literally killing your own penalty.
It’ll be interesting to see the coaching strategies with regard to OT. Do you go with a Malkin, Crosby, Kessel combination? Or how about a Letang, Crosby, Kessel trio? I think the difference between which four to use versus which three will be huge.
Next week I'll examine the third rule change, the coaches challenge. Until then, I give you