USA TODAY Sports
As usual, whenever changes are discussed to the NHL landscape, increasing scoring is on the agenda. One thing that refuses to die is the idea of bigger nets.
Whenever the NHL discusses ways to increase scoring in hockey, they come up with a couple ideas that are just inherently bad. One of these ideas is to alter the size of the nets, since goalies are bigger now and it's harder to score.
A few years ago this idea was brought up, and they wanted to change the shape of the net too, which led to the idea of this ridiculous monstrosity:
The NHL no longer wants to do something so foolish as that. The idea being talked about is expanding the width of the net by a few inches. Some people say two inches, some say by more (Rangers fans say 8 inches, but they always say that).
On the surface, I can see how people who don't understand the goaltending position could see this as no big deal. Goaltenders are getting bigger, make the nets slightly bigger, scoring goes back up. However the increase in goalie size in the last generation of netminders isn't the only thing effecting goal totals.
The way I see it, you've got three major contributors to lower scoring:
- Goaltenders are bigger now than ever.
- Goaltenders are more talented now than ever.
- Defensive systems are better now than ever.
But do bigger nets actually fix the problem? Big goalies aren't dominating right now simply because they're big, although it can lead to som frustrating games. Chris Boyle pointed out today that Ben Bishop (6'7") didn't make the NHL consistently until he was 26 years old, and he has a below league average save percentage in his career. Would a bigger net disproportionally hurt his numbers more than a goaltender like Carey Price, who's both big and incredibly talented?
How is a goaltender like 5'11" Jaroslav Halak going to adjust to bigger nets? He's quick, and far superior to Ben Bishop, but now he has to move even further to make saves.
Another thing to consider is that you're changing everything a generation of goaltenders have learned about positioning in the course of their lifelong training. All of a sudden the angles that they've worked on to cut shooters off leaves a nice juicy spot to shoot at.
The big problem that hockey faces as far as viewership goes isn't about goaltenders making saves. No hockey fan minds watching a high tempo game that ends 2-1 because both goalies were flat out brilliant, what they hate is watching a game that ends 2-1 because there were no scoring chances.
What's the first thing that's going to happen in the NHL if you increase the vulnerability of goaltenders? Teams will look to protect their goaltenders at all costs. If you expand the area where you're likely to score from, teams will begin searching for ways to make it tougher to shoot from those areas.
If you don't want the Ben Bishops and Anders Lindbacks of the world dominating the NHL (spoiler, they already don't dominate the NHL. Only 3 of the top 17 goaltenders in the NHL this year are over 6'3"), then you have to exploit their weaknesses, and that isn't the size of the net, it's mobility.
Find a way to increase puck movement and limit defense at even strength, and you'll find out how to get giant goalies to let more goals in. What can the NHL do? I'm not 100% sure, but it's also not my job to come up with these ideas. Now allowing players to lay down to blocked shots was something that always interested me. Or maybe the officiating system could be revamped so that there's less human error.