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Let's talk about these rule changes

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CH CH CH CHAAAANGES. you know. like to the rules. shut up.

Come on. Does that trapezoid really need to be BIGGER?
Come on. Does that trapezoid really need to be BIGGER?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Big bag of new rules released today by the NHL. Cheryl released them earlier this afternoon here if you want to look at the full, proper text. I'll be summarizing and paraphrasing here because that legal-hockey language is just... deep hurting.

Changes to the Ice Surface

Most annoyingly, the NHL is expanding the trapezoid to be two feet farther outside each post. Urgh. More awkward goalie antics, more cringing as we wait for it, wait for it, ok now touch it, and more refusal to acknowledge that if you just let the goalie play the puck, the player safety issue that icing is will be significantly diminished. Goalie puckhandling is a seriously difficult skill, and the expansion of the trapezoid needlessly nerfs teams that have a goalie who isn't inept with the puck. Brodeur is gone, guys. The rule is stupid and confusing and promotes corner dump-ins, which makes the game grindier. Let's open the ice back up.

During the preseason, the league will be testing end zone circle hash marks that are farther apart. In the past, the faceoff circles in the end zones have had hash marks that were 3 feet apart. The proposed change will put them in line with international standards, at five feet seven inches. If the League and Player's Association agree to continue this change into the regular season, they will. We heard about this after the Boca Raton meetings in this piece from Craig Custance:

The NHL general managers formed a consensus to recommend two changes on faceoffs. One recommendation will be to move the hash marks from three feet apart to five feet apart, similar to the Olympic rules, to prevent the jostling for position along the boards that often happens before the drop of a puck.

"And [it] allows the quicker player to to get to the puck and generate scoring chances," said Blues GM Doug Armstrong, who proposed the move to IIHF hashmarks.

Okay. Pre-faceoff jostling is annoying. This may also open up more chances for shots directly off the faceoff.

Penalties

I am happy to announce that there will no longer be arguments about Whether He Touched The Puck First. If you dive at a guy to get the puck and you also trip him, it's a penalty. Period. Puck first or not. (The only exception is if it would be a penalty shot situation. If so, if you get the puck first, it's merely a power play. This caveat is here to keep in compliance with the little-known bylaw in the CBA which states every rule in hockey must be confusing.) So expect to get to explain over and over all season to people who don't pay attention in the offseason why it's still a penalty even though He Got The Puck First. It's kind of a player safety issue to make it okay to send guys sprawling when they're on a breakaway, since that usually results in a collision with the boards at high speed. You want to make that big diving play? Don't knock the guy's skates out in the process. It's still there, it's just tougher to do.

You can no longer pull the bait-and-switch faceoff move after an icing either. After an icing, if the defending center commits a faceoff infraction, he will be warned and have to remain in the circle. A further infraction is a 2-minute bench minor. Now the way this is worded confuses me. The patch notes rule changes state

A second face-off violation by the defending team in such situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.

Now if we assume this means you do it once and you get warned for the entire game, cool, but you're probably giving teams a free reign to be as cheaty on post-icing faceoffs as they want in the playoffs because refs will be damned before they call that bench minor In The Playoffs, guaranteed. If it just means you can't do it twice on the same faceoff then the rule does nothing, so I hope it's the former. Either way it doesn't seem to me like an effective idea.

Almost as confusing is the change to game misconducts. What the league has done with Rule 23 here is make a new category of penalties such that, if you get two game misconducts from the list, you get an automatic one-game suspension. Now that already existed before (Rule 23.3). If you got THREE "general category" game misconducts, you were automatically suspended a game. And if you went 41 games without one your record was cleared. This was only two game misconducts for boarding, checking from behind, or "stick infractions".

The change lumps boarding and Cookeing penalties together with the following list. If you get two game misconducts from this list in 41 games, you get an automatic suspension.

  • Boarding
  • Checking from behind
  • Clipping
  • Charging
  • Elbowing
  • Interference
  • Kneeing
  • Head-butting
  • Butt-ending

Not sure what the motivation was for this. It's a pretty arcane rule designed to create automatic suspensions for repeatedly violent offenders.

Finally, we have player and coach fines for repeated diving or embellishment. Cheryl has already lain out the scale so I won't copy her pasta. Come on, what's a $5,000 fine to millionaires? The point is to shame offenders, and by lumping coaches in, to try to motivate coaches to get diving out of the game on their end too. It's hot gas as far as I can tell. Diving is rarely called as it is, and has anyone ever been fined or suspended for diving via supplementary discipline? This is a change to that unused supplementary discipline process, not calls on the ice.

Miscellany

No more spinorama. The spinorama is defined by Rule 24.2 as a "move where the player completes a 360º turn as he approaches the goal." This rule applies to penalty shots and shootouts both. So we're going to break ties with a fun and silly skills competition and then start to take out the fun and silliness. At least lacrosse whips are still allowed if the puck never gets above shoulder level.

The rest is stuff I personally like, and therefore I personally think you should too. Overtime will now switch ends so you play 4 on 4 with a long change. Also they will zamboni the ice prior to overtime, which will make it slower to start, but faster to play, as well as safer than skating in 20 minutes of third period ruts. Also the coaches don't have to submit a list of shootout shooters anymore at all. We all get to be surprised to find out who will absolutely not turn 360º at any time.

Video review is being expanded! It's vague, but we'll see video review allowed to "correct a broader array of situations where video review clearly establishes that a goal or no goal call on the ice has been made in error." We can also now review plays that involve the ref losing sight of the puck. That's right: Intent to Blow is taking a direct nerf in this NHL patch. Hockey Ops will also want more evidence that you kicked a puck in. The language of this makes me think it wants to allow more goals off skates:

Hockey Operations will require more demonstrable video evidence of a "distinct kicking motion" in order to overrule a "goal" call on the ice, or to uphold a "no goal" call on the ice.

Not to overrule "hey that goal is fine," and not to uphold "no goal he kicked dat shit." We aren't addressing goals added. Only goals subtracted. You will see fewer pucks pulled out of the net because of kicking motions this year.

Finally, what is my favorite change this time around. If you put the puck out of bounds making some kind of shot, the faceoff will stay in the attacking zone. No more draws at the blue line because you pinged it off the crossbar and the puck landed in Nova Scotia, or because you're Shea Weber and broke the glass, or if you deflect a shot over the glass. It stays in the zone. You're no longer punished for bad luck on a shot attempt.

Overall, it seems like the NHL is trying to open up the game for more scoring chances overall, with a couple of attempts to improve player safety and curb "come on, bullshit" moments. A lot of this is good & fine, and some of it is head-scratching at best. Which rule change do you like best? Which do you wish had been set on fire instead?