Two Minutes for Shot-Blocking
Darren Dreger on TSN yesterday said that Bob Gainey had proposed a new rule to increase offense: players will not be allowed to block shots lying down on the ice. Ridiculous? Yes. But, okay, I’ll bite.
Let’s say the NHL goes through with this. The first question is, what’s the penalty? Because it’s absolutely ridiculous to penalize a player for making a good defensive play, let’s say the “downside” is an offensive zone face-off for the shooting team. It’s the only viable solution I can think of, but even then it doesn’t necessarily promote offensive play. I can just as easily put a Henrik Zetterberg to take the face-off and win it, and totally negate what could’ve been a set offensive play. Gainey’s solution doesn’t fly – I think there are more ways to make the more exciting (that also doesn’t necessarily mean more offense) – in part because it really stops the evolution of the game. 30 years ago, shot-blocking wasn’t a big part of the game, but players like Mike Komisarek have made it into an art form, and today defensemen at the peewee levels are being taught how to block shots properly. That’s not even mentioning the fact that with the amount of blocked shots these days, there would be too many whistles to get the game going. As a side note, I’ve never understood why some defenseman don’t take the extra step and step around the player lying down on the ice and instead choosing to shoot right at the player. Chicago’s Brent Sopel is notorious for this.
I don’t know where Gainey is coming from with this suggestion, but it all really ties back to Gary Bettman‘s obsession with trying to make the game more appealing to the US fanbase. However, Bettman’s approach is narrow-minded, and he believes that the only way to generate an American fanbase (and more importantly, revenue) is to make the game more exciting by allowing for more offense. While I do admit that watching players score goals is somewhat satisfying, I’m just as happy, perhaps more, watching a 2-1 nail-biter than a 6-2 blowout.
Bettman has refused to believe that the NHL is not the NBA, and it can’t be marketed as such. Basketball is one of the few sports that have very few barriers of entry, which is why it has such a large global fanbase in Asia and Europe. The NBA also thrives on the personality of its players, both negative and positive (Ron Artest, anyone?). This was also a sticking point when Brian Burke was on OTR, where he said hockey is doing fine in the States, considering it’s relative obscurity and many barriers of entry. The NHL has to sell itself, like the Detroit-Pittsburgh series. It can’t be sold through marketing ads, music, or highlight reels, but as long as Bettman refuses to believe this, the NHL will continue to sit on a carousel of rule changes and its subsequent marketing flops.
EDIT: Neal on the Leafs section of the site and puremetal33 have also had discussion on this point. Read it here.
“The NHL doesn’t need to to increase scoring, what they NEED to do is stop trying to sell the game to the same idiots who watch the NBA. The NHL is a niche sport for intelligent observers. It can’t and won’t be sold to the lowest common denominator.” – puremetal33
EDIT #2: You’re telling me that Jordan Staal should be penalized for this? (scroll to 0:38) Give me a break.