Solving The Trapezoid

This week the NHL General Managers met in Toronto to discuss issues going on with the game and one of the big things that came up was whether or not to keep the trapezoid area behind the goals.  The trapezoid is the only area behind the net goaltenders are allowed to play the puck and making it essential that defensemen be on their games and skating fast to retrieve pucks dumped into their end lest they give up possession to the attacking team.

The issue at play with the trapezoid is that in these races for the puck, players are getting hurt and a lot of folks hate that goaltenders can’t hunt pucks down and keep play flowing along in control of the defense.  Some GMs are anonymously arguing that goalies keeping play moving along will help the offense.

Well sure, that’d be a great argument if we hadn’t gone through years of deathly boring defense-first, sport-ruining hockey before Herr Bettman and his Army of Idiot Minions decided to lock out the players and reinforce the rule book to make sure fans weren’t bored to tears.

The argument against the trapezoid for purposes of saving players from being injured is a bit stickier.  No one likes to lose any players to injury, especially in lunatic bat-out-of-hell chases for the puck into the end boards.  After all, who wants to see more injuries like these?

I’m a squeamish sissy so I sure as hell don’t want to see those kinds of injuries anymore and that’s just because I don’t want to post them on my website, never mind going through them myself.  Of course, the GMs decided against making any changes to the trapezoid rules because… Well, why have a seemingly lame duck season with one set of rules when another set is on the way?  If changes are going to happen, they’ll come up after the season if at all.

Besides, it seems as if the trapezoid debate is more of something for message board and blog fodder as it is, at least that’s what I gathered from this quote by Sharks GM Doug Wilson”

“I don’t think there’s a great appetite to change it,” said Wilson. “And I don’t mind that because you’ve got to be conscious that when you change one thing, it could impact two or three other things. We put it on the agenda, we’d asked to talk about it, just to really spur thought.”

Spur thought in the room there and here on the Interwebs for us  mom’s basement geniuses to tackle.  Of course, fan opinions on the trapezoid are fairly predictable.  Fans of teams with goalies who play the puck well or are overly concerned with player injuries are upset, meanwhile others are likely indifferent or pleased.  One team I was concerned with was the Devils and Tom Gulitti at Fire and Ice got some thoughts from the man most hurt by (and opposed to) the trapezoid, Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, in this case, is sticking up for his defensemen.

“I’m not involved, but my view of it is it’s a no-brainer if they want to start to eliminate these huge hits for the defensemen,” Brodeur said. “Many times you’re able to just chip the puck and save a big hit. That was one thing when I was younger whenever my defensemen or somebody was getting a big hit, I felt guilty that I let that the guys get hit like that. Now, I’ve got to sit and watch all the time.”

That’s a tough stand to argue against and I won’t do that.  It’s stupid to do that and he’s right, it sucks to see guys take huge hits and it’s even worse to see guys get hurt from it all.

It’s also part of the game.  I won’t be some macho asshole here and start telling guys to take off the skirt, I already admitted I’m a huge wuss and I’m as physically fragile as it gets.  What I will do, instead, is offer a solution to adopt that saves everyone the trouble.

The NHL should give it the old college try.  Eliminate the trapezoid, allow goalies to play the puck at their own volition but save everyone the trouble and adopt no-touch icing.  One thing Brodeur said in Gulitti’s great piece was that more often than not goalies are going to make mistakes playing the puck so its on them to decide if they want to take the chance.  Sure, that’s easy for him to say being one of the best puckhandling goaltenders of all time, but it’s still true.  In that case, spin the wheel and make the deal terrible puck-playing goaltenders.  How bad do you want to keep possession of the puck and how bad do you want to potentially get chewed out by your coach for being a bonehead?

Yeah, I thought so.

Adding no-touch icing does nothing to take away from the flow of the game since, more often than not, icing is going to end up being called and the chances of it getting waived off are generally pretty few.  Therefore, adopting a rule that cuts to the chase, and just gets the play moving along shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Races for the puck to save a faceoff from happening are pretty friggin’ rare and if that’s the kind of play in hockey that gets your juices flowing… Maybe finding a new sport to watch would be a good start because you’ve missed the boat.

My one sticking point here is that a little more be asked of the linesmen aside from playing ignorant to plays off the puck, being unable to keep count of players on the ice and effectively watching the lines.  Tall order, I know.

The linesmen are also the judges of icing and one of the rule changes that was made after the return from Herr Bettman’s Attempted Murder of the NHL was the elimination of the red line and two-line passes.   There was a stipulation in the rulings on icing that could be better put to use here should the NHL do the smart thing and do things the college way.

Rule 65 – Section e: The Linesman shall have discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions on attempted passes if those passes are deemed receivable.

How’s about we reinforce the linesman’s definition of what the attempted breakout pass looks like.  After all, if you want to keep play moving this isn’t a bad way to do so and you don’t even need to rewrite anything in the rules.  By implementing these changes, you’re able to corral the injury problems with defensemen getting destroyed by attacking forwards moving at breakneck speed and you’re able to unchain the goaltenders from the net.

As long as defensemen aren’t allowed to skate in front of/latch onto attacking forwards like they were allowed to do through most of the 90s and early 2000s, things should work out just fine.  It works out fine (for the most part) in college hockey and making it work in the NHL shouldn’t be much of a problem. Then again, that’s putting a lot of faith into the men in stripes to do the right thing.   Maybe I should hold back on these drastic suggestions after all.

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