04/13/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
As we wrap up the 2014/2015 NHL regular season, hockey fans are looking forward to the most exciting time of the year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But before we get to the post season, lets take a look back at a major problem from this years regular season. The lack of scoring.
When the NHL lost the 2004/2005 to the lockout, it was determined to make the game better when it returned. The league removed the red line to eliminate the two line pass, decreased the size of allowable goaltending equipment, and had officiating focused on eliminating the clutching and grabbing style that had slowed the game to a plodding pace, and led Mario Lemieux to once call the NHL a "garage league".
In the season before the lockout, teams averaged 2.57 goals per game each, or a total of 5.14 goals per game. A sharp decline from the NHL of the early 1990's, when teams were combing for nearly 7 goals per game. When the NHL returned after the lockout in 2005/2006, goal scoring increased to 3.03 goals per team, or over 6 goals combined per game. This past season, teams averaged 2.6 goals per game, and combined for 5.2 goals. Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars led the NHL in scoring this season with 87 points. With that he is the first player to do so with less than 100 points in a full season since Martin St. Louis did in 2003/2004, the last season before the lockout. As a matter of fact, Benn is the first player to lead the league with less than 90 points since Stan Mikita back in 1967/1968.
The reason for this? A lack of power play opportunities. This season teams were getting an average of 3.1 power plays per game. That's way down from the average of 5.9 power plays per team per game out of the lockout in 2005/2006. Also as a matter of fact, this years average power plays per game was the lowest since 1978/1979. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the correlation there...less power plays equals less scoring.
There is no need to make the nets bigger or play on an Olympic sized ice rink. The solution is much simpler. Enforce the rules of the game and actually call the penalties that are committed. That is the most frustrating thing for hockey fans. If there's a penalty committed on the ice...call it! Plain and simple. Cut and dried. A penalty is a penalty every time, so call them. Increase the number of power plays and goal scoring will go up with it. You don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure that out!
Why the NHL's owners don't see this is also frustrating. But the NHL, unlike other sports, doesn't have owners meetings. No, they have General Managers meetings instead. And one of the biggest problems with the NHL has been the "old boys" network of GM's who don't like the finesse and skill style of hockey. Here's some news for you...GM's aren't buying the tickets, the fans are. And since the fans are your customers, and your customers are becoming unsatisfied, what do you think happens next? No Ivy League education is needed to answer that...they stop buying tickets.
Professional hockey saw a dramatic increase in popularity, attendance, and television viewership after the lockout. Casual fans started to see what a great and exciting game hockey is. Now they're starting to see the brand of hockey that turned many fans off from the mid 1990's until the lockout. Wake up NHL, before you're back to being a garage league again.
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